Kony 2012: A Case Study in the Power of Advocacy

on March 6, 2013

(Photo Credit: k-ideas)

By Aaron Gaglia (@GagliaAC)

A year ago today, Invisible Children launched the Kony 2012 Campaign to raise awareness against and capture the notorious war criminal, Joseph Kony. Kony is the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which is responsible for committing many vile crimes, including the kidnapping of thousands of kids and turning them into soldiers. This aggressive campaign , among other things sought to bring widespread awareness about Joseph Kony and the great evils he has committed.

This video went incredibly viral, receiving more than 100 million views in six days. Invisible Children was incredibly successful in raising awareness, but received much criticism simultaneously about their organization, campaign, finances, etc. To add to the controversy, 10 days after the release of the video, the co-founder of Invisible Children, Jason Russell, had a breakdown and ran around San Diego in his underwear. He was hospitalized for nearly two months and then released.

Yet despite this breakdown and the criticism, the Kony 2012 Campaign continued going strong. Posters covered the streets and Joseph Kony became a household name. Invisible Children recovered from the controversy and made some good progress.

Though Invisible Children failed to meet their goal to capture Joseph Kony in 2012, they accomplished their three other goals. These goals were 1) to make Kony famous, 2) to pressure international government to support efforts against LRA, and 3) to increase the protection of civilians from the LRA. Today, they released a video highlighting that progress. Invisible Children, on their website, sums up the progress in this way:

“In the last 365 days, 2 of the top 5 commanders in the LRA have been taken off the battlefield, LRA Killings have dropped 67%, the Invisible Children youth rehabilitation center is open at full capacity, and Joseph Kony became the most wanted criminal in the world. But a viral video is not going to end this war. To bring peace, it will take commitment from all of us.”

In addition, President Obama signed the Rewards for Justice Bill into law on January 15, 2013, which expanded the Rewards for Justice Program to include rewards for information on international criminals, of who Joseph Kony is at the top of the list. “The new law allows the State Department to publicize and pay rewards for information about people involved in transnational organized crime or foreign nationals wanted by any international criminal tribunal for war crimes or genocide” (AP).

In addition to these great steps in the path toward justice in Central Africa, the Kony 2012 campaign also showed the world the power advocacy can have. I was one of the many who was a bit suspicious of Kony 2012 and Invisible Children. I wrongly characterized it as being merely trendy, lacking real substance. Yet, these suspicions were proved wrong.

Move DC showed that Kony 2012 is one example that this campaign had real substance.  Over 12,000 participants gathered in DC last November to raise awareness about this issue. Many traveled long distances to be a part of this event, and over 300 meetings lobbying members of Congress were held during the event. The advocacy of Invisible Children was not in vain. Among other things, they played a big part in the Rewards for Justice Bill becoming law earlier this year.

At the end of the day, the style of a cause is not what matters; the substance of that cause is what matters. And Invisible Children’s cause definitely has substance. The capture of Joseph Kony and the ending of LRA atrocities are real causes that everyone should be behind. The fact that Joseph Kony is a household name, in addition to the other progress they have made, shows that Invisible Children is achieving measures of success in this cause. This is something everyone, regardless of whether they like Invisible Children’s brand, can celebrate.

To learn more about Invisible Children and their work, please visit their website.

To learn more about the conflict in Uganda and the many kidnapped children, Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children, is a great resource. In this book, IRD’s Religious Liberties Director, Faith McDonnell teams up with ex-child soldier Grace Akallo, “to tell the story of Uganda’s forgotten children” (from Back Cover) and the faithfulness of Uganda’s Christians. This book gives the first-hand accounts of an escaped victim of the atrocities and an activist and advocate for the Acholi people of northern Uganda.

Let us pray and work so that Joseph Kony will be captured, LRA atrocities will be stopped, and the many children kidnapped by the LRA will be freed.

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    […] we also once took to the Esplanade, the Constitution Avenue side of the White House. This was to protest the atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and his LRA rebels in northern Uganda. We walked from there to the U.S. Capitol, lines of hundreds, […]

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