Yesterday I came in from college, threw my bags and sketchbooks on my bedroom floor, made myself a cup of tea and turned on my laptop. When I opened Facebook, the first thing that came up on my newsfeed was that 23 of my friends had shared a video called ‘KONY 2012’ and that a further 16 of my friends had updated their status’ about ‘Joseph Kony’.
If you haven’t already watched the 30 minute video, it is a video made by a man called Jason Russell. In 2003 he met a young teenage boy in Uganda, Africa who, as Russell describes, ‘was running for his life’. The video makes the viewer empathise with a young African boy, called Jacob, as we learn more about his past and the fears he wakes up to every day.
Jacob tells Russell that when he was younger, he watched some rebels cut his brothers throat and murder him for trying to escape from their grasp. He goes on to tell him how he thinks it would just be better if he was killed so he didn’t have to ‘stay’. Jacob says how he and his friend ‘are only two, no one is taking care of us, we are not going to school’. When he is asked what he would say to his brother if he was still alive, he says ‘I love you and now I miss you… we may meet in heaven’. When Jacob breaks down and sobs, aching for his brother and living in constant fear, Russell makes him a heartfelt promise; ‘I promise you, we going to do everything we can to stop them, you hear my words? We are going to stop them!’
Joseph Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a group in Uganda that has forced more than 30,000 children to fight in a murderous armed conflict. Kony has declared himself a “spokesperson” of God and claims he can channel the Holy Spirit. Russell explains in the video that Koney and his followers abduct children and turn the young girls into ‘sex slaves’ and the boys into ‘child soldiers’. The LRA rebels currently number as little as several hundred, only a small fraction of their strength when they were at their peak, but they still maintain a core of hardened fighters infamous for mutilating civilians and abducting children. The LRA rages its private war across the border regions of northern Uganda and South Sudan, often spilling over into the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. Kony’s fighters have been accused of murder, rape, torture and sexual enslavement. Reports say they have massacred civilians inside churches, forced them off cliffs, burned them alive and even made them eat dead bodies.
The campaign to find and kill Kony has been led by Uganda’s army, which has enlisted former LRA members to try and run him to ground in the remote areas where his fighters operate. Many villagers in the LRA’s field of operations have also formed makeshift self-defence forces to protect their families. Last October US president Barack Obama authorised the deployment of US Special Forces to join in the campaign, but said they would operate in an advisory role, not an offensive combat one.
Over the 6th, 7th and 8th of March this year, Russell’s insightful and thought provoking video has been watched across the globe over 32 million times on YouTube. Even in the time I have spent writing this review (about an hour and a half) it has been watched 5 million times.
I think this video will do more than just promote justice for the African people’s lives who have been affected by the LRA, I also think it will promote the fact that the internet can be used for good as well as bad. We are all often warned against the use of the internet, what with ‘trolling’ and cyber bullying, but if it wasn’t for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Vimeo, I know for a fact this video would not have become the phenomenon that it has in the last 72 hours.
I urge you to watch the video if you havent already;