Social media has proven to be a truly powerful and connective tool, but can it help bring down one of the world’s most wanted war criminals?
Improbable as the idea may sound, it just might happen. The Internet is blowing up with responses to a viral video about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, violent leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and a campaign to bring him to justice. The rebel group says it rules by the Ten Commandments, there’s nothing biblical about forcing young boys to commit unspeakable acts of violence or sexually enslaving little girls.
Since its Monday release, Kony 2012 has been viewed more than seven million times and is the subject of countless tweets, including one from pop star Rihanna that reads “#KONY2012 SPREAD THE WORD!!! PLEASE go to Invisiblechildren.com Even if its 10 minutes… Trust me, you NEED to know about this! #1LOVE”
The film is both moving and chilling. Produced by the nonprofit organization Invisible Children, it documents Kony’s decades-long terrorism of villages in Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan that has led to the killing of tens of thousands of people. It also details the experiences of a boy named Jacob, who, with a brother, was on the run from the LRA. Without any parents to care for them or the ability to go to school, Jacob said it would be preferable to simply die.
Joseph Russell, who founded Invisible Children and produced the documentary, is hoping that it will stir up enough anger to move viewers to pressure lawmakers to actively seek Kony’s capture and bring him to trial at the International Criminal Court. He and his band of young activists have already proven that it’s possible after their efforts pressured President Obama to deploy 100 military advisers to Uganda last fall to help villagers learn how to protect themselves.
The campaign includes encouraging 20 celebrities and 20 policymakers to take a stand on the issue. It also asks supporters to sign an online pledge, donate or purchase an advocacy kit and share the film, which will disappear at the end of the year.
“If the government doesn’t believe that people care, the mission will be canceled,” Russell said in the film.
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(Photo: Invisible Children)