Two years ago it was difficult for most of us online to avoid the KONY 2012 viral video. It was a slickly produced ad by the Invisible Children advocacy group for their campaign to assist efforts to capture or kill Joseph Kony, leader of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (a militia infamous for using child soldiers). The video spread rapidly through social media, getting millions of views. Criticism and suspicion towards Invisible Children spread just as rapidly as people spoke out against the group’s methods and started noticing how the majority of their money went towards advertising, staff, and transportation rather than children of Uganda. Many also questioned the group’s motives, pointing out that Kony hasn’t been seen for years and how Uganda happened to be a source of natural resources the U.S. government has an interest in such as oil and valuable minerals. Uganda’s President and friend of Obama, Yoweri Museveni, has also used child soldiers and was the focus of a recent Human Rights Watch report uncovering his government’s high-level corruption. Possibly as a result of the public pressure, about two weeks after the release of KONY 2012 leader and co-founder of Invisible Children, Jason Russell, had a very unusual and scandalous public breakdown.
Despite the rapid loss of much of their public support following the incident, Invisible Children’s campaign still impressed the U.S. government enough to extend a military advise-and-assist mission to central Africa the following month (if we are to believe their stated motives). In addition, the European Union established a Joint Operations Centre to assist central Africa’s counter-LRA regional task force in a show of support (again, if we take them for their word). Congress also passed the Rewards for Justice Bill authorizing $5 million for information leading to Kony’s capture in January 2013.
Just last Sunday, the Obama administration announced the deployment of about 150 Special Operations troops and military aircraft to Uganda, ostensibly to search for Joseph Kony. According to the Pentagon, at least four CV-22 Osprey aircraft will arrive in the country by midweek, together with refueling planes and Special Operations forces airmen to fly and maintain them.
For more information on Kony, Invisible Children and the recent troop surge, read Patrick Henningsen’s report at 21st Century Wire: KONY 2014: Obama Orders New Troop Surge to ‘Find Ugandan Warlord’