Thursday, March 15, 2012

Koney Video goes viral - Koney, Who ??


Today media is screaming about the judgment of ICC – the International Criminal Court that  has found the Congolese warlord, Thomas Lubanga, guilty of recruiting and using child soldiers between 2002 and 2003.  It is sensational in one more way because, it becomes the first verdict of this Court since it was set up 10 years ago.

Thomas Lubanga, will be sentenced at a later hearing.He headed a rebel group during an inter-ethnic conflict in a gold-rich region of Democratic Republic of Congo.  The prosecution accused him of using children as young as nine as bodyguards and fighters. In a unanimous decision, the three judges said evidence proved that as head of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC) and its armed wing, Lubanga bore responsibility for the recruitment of child soldiers under the age of 15 who had participated actively on the frontline.

As you read that, there is another similar – it has been viewed close to 80 million times and most of them do not know this person or his victims in Northern Uganda.  You can have your own view ? A cry for the children of Africa or another attempt by the Western World to indulge and interfere in the affairs of another Country and have their political will implemented.  Apart from going viral on internet ‘on You Tube’ – its premiere was shown in a makeshift open air theatre in Lira, 350 km off the capital Kampala and attracted a large crowd.   Some of the spectators did not like what they saw and the screening ended amid jeers and scuffles, with some angry viewers throwing stones. It is Kony 2012 Campaign – the campaign  against African warlord.  Do you about this viral campaign and who he is ?

Joseph Kony  is the head of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan guerrilla group. While initially enjoying strong public support, the LRA turned brutally on its own supporters, supposedly to "purify" the Acholi people and turnUganda into a theocracy. Kony proclaimed himself the spokesperson of God and a spirit medium, primarily of the Holy Spirit, which the group believes can represent itself in many manifestations.

Kony 2012 is a film created by Invisible Children, Inc. with a stated purpose of promoting  the charity's 'Stop Kony' movement to make the movement for arrest of indicted Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony.  As like many other things, it has been watched by millions on You Tube and on other video sharing website Vimeo.   There is also a  central "Kony2012" website operated by Invisible Children. The intense exposure of the video caused the "Kony 2012" website to crash shortly after it began gaining widespread popularity. The video has also seen a number of celebrities endorsing the campaign including Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Christina Milian, Nicki Minaj, Bill Gates andKim Kardashian. On April 20, 2012, as part of the campaign, supporters will put up posters promoting Kony 2012 in their home towns. The movement launched,  Invisible Children,  offers posters from an online shop in an attempt to gain wider recognition on the issue. They have also created action kits that include campaign buttons, posters, bracelets, and stickers to help spread awareness

It is a video that runs for 30 minute urging sustained US military role in Uganda; the arrest of Joseph Kony, the fugitive leader of the Lord's Resistance Army militia group in Uganda, that is sweeping  across the Internet,  attracting a wave of support on Twitter and Facebook.  The group urges people to help make Kony "famous," and many high school and college students especially apparently related to a message focused on helping innocent children. The Lord's Resistance Army has been notorious for kidnapping children and forcing them to fight. Russell narrates the video, which juxtaposes shots of his young son in Southern California with the plight of scarred Ugandan children. Over a stirring soundtrack, Russell urges viewers to call legislators and government officials to sustain the U.S. military presence in Uganda.  He also encourages viewers to purchase an Action Kit, which includes "Kony2012"-themed posters, stickers and bracelets fitted with "unique ID numbers" that buyers can distribute to their friends.  The campaign is supposed to culminate on April 20, when Russell urges supporters of the movement to "blanket every street, every city."

There has also been criticism that it only promotes a misunderstanding of the situation - beginning with the fact that Kony is believed to have long since fled Uganda for South Sudan or the Central African Republic.  Though his army once numbered in the thousands and sowed fear across northern Uganda, he is now believed to have only a few hundred followers and much of the armed conflict in the area has subsided.  Critics of the Invisible Children campaign also said the video oversimplified the situation, created the illusion that posting messages on social media could have a meaningful impact on a long-standing human rights crisis and ignored the efforts of people on the ground who truly understood the situation.  A similar type of celebrity-driven campaign to "Save Darfur" fell short of its goal of ending genocide in a strife-torn region of Sudan and drew similar criticism.

Some say that  Kony was last seen in South Sudan's Western Equatoria state in 2007 when the LRA leader had attended abortive peace talks before disappearing again into the bush. Reports suggest that  Ugandan military had only managed to drive Kony out of Ugandan territory after more than two decades of killings and kidnappings by the LRA.

The Kony 2012 campaign succeeded in making African warlord Joseph Kony infamous, but left out much of the background.  And that would start a fresh debate on whether the concern is real and how much of real success online campaigns would do…..

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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