News

Kony Video Campaign Shakes Up Advocacy World

Joseph Kony of the Lord's Resistance Army (file photo)
Joseph Kony of the Lord's Resistance Army (file photo)
Nico Colombant

The release this month by a U.S. non-profit organization of an Internet video denouncing a Ugandan rebel leader is creating a worldwide conversation and shaking up the world of advocacy.  

Like many other human rights campaigns, the video released by the organization Invisible Children got help from celebrities.

One of them was Angelina Jolie. The Hollywood film actress spoke out against the elusive Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony at a recent appearance.

“He is an extraordinarily horrible human being," she said. "His time has come, and it is lovely to see that young people are raising up as well.”

A collective of some of the biggest U.S. media and entertainment personalities used social media to promote the 29-minute video when it was released March 5.  So did high school and college students across the United States and elsewhere.

The Kony video has become the fastest growing ever on the Internet in terms of views.

On Tuesday, it prompted U.S. lawmakers to introduce a resolution calling for increased efforts to boost the number of forces deployed to protect civilians and pursue LRA commanders hiding in Central Africa.

Last year, U.S. President Barack Obama sent 100 U.S. military advisors to help with ongoing efforts against an insurgency which for decades has been abducting children, displacing civilians and mutilating the faces of victims in Central Africa.

An international human rights and development expert at American University in Washington, Lori Handrahan, thinks the Invisible Children campaign is revolutionizing advocacy.  She says other advocates should build new activist communities by using video, social media and celebrities.

“I believe that the professionals who have been working in humanitarian response for decades really need to start to embrace this [social media] element and understand that it is here and it is for the good," said Handrahan.

A long-time advocate against the LRA, Washington-based Michael Poffenberger with the group Resolve, says a video can be very effective in bringing out new human rights activists.

“Even experts get started on these issues somewhere," said Poffenberger. "Most people who have worked on these issues for decades can still point to some transformative experience in their life, whether it is a good teacher or a moment where their eyes were opened to something going on in another part of the world.”

Poffenberger also says this highly polished video is just a hint of what groups like Invisible Children and Resolve are doing.

“I know that there is a big strategy that has gone on behind this effort that will be taking steps to channel that awareness into concrete measures that actually help protect people on the ground who are suffering LRA attacks," he said.

Invisible Children and Resolve have been working together on an online LRA crisis tracker, which includes a map and timeline for current and past LRA attacks.  Most recent attacks have taken place in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while LRA commanders, including Kony, if he is still alive, are believed to be hiding in the Central African Republic.

The stated goal of the video is to bring about Kony’s capture, so that he can be tried at the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Poffenberger also is pushing for more international emphasis on development and social projects in LRA-affected areas.

Lots of the social media commentary spawned by the video has been negative, ranging from criticism of the inadequacies of Western-style justice, to the fact that the much diminished LRA has already been pushed out of Uganda, or that U.S. activists should focus on American problems.

Handrahan, the American University professor, sees a lot of misplaced jealousy in these comments, some of them directed at the movie’s main character, American filmmaker Jason Russell.

“I do not think there is any place for jealousy when we are trying to take down international war criminals," said Handrahan. "I think people who do not understand what Jason Russell and Invisible Children and all the people who are supporting him are trying to do, they need a wake-up call and this is it.”

In one of his rare interviews several years ago, Kony himself said he is innocent, blaming Ugandan troops for atrocities. He also said he lacks the tools to communicate his own message to a worldwide audience.

Experts have described his fighters as highly trained and motivated by long-standing grievances against Uganda’s government for past abuses committed on northern Acholi people.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs