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  • on 30.10.2015
  • at 12:44 PM
  • by Kimberley Evans

The tyranny of distance, up close 0

Remember #Kony2012? In March 2012, US-based humanitarian organization Invisible Children (IC) launched its global internet-driven campaign to “make Kony famous.” Joseph Kony, the elusive leader of the insurgent Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), had been at war with the Ugandan state and its army, the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF) since the late 1980s.

The LRA abducted hundreds of boys and girls in their frequent attacks on northern Ugandan communities, pressing many of them into service as soldiers and workers, and forcing many into sexual relationships with its men. According to escapee testimony, Kony himself had numerous child “wives” at a time.Indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity and war crimes in 2005, Joseph Kony remains at large, perhaps ill, perhaps somewhere in South Sudan. After receiving blistering criticism about IC’s methods and finances, and after a very public breakdown by its founder and main spokesperson, Jason Russell, the organization announced in December 2014 that it would hand its operations over to a much smaller, local Ugandan staff later this year. For an instant though, IC succeeded in making Kony famous.

The viral success of IC’s fundraising and public awareness campaign was the result of brilliant guerrilla marketing that sold a powerful idea: ordinary people around the world (and some extraordinary ones too) could and should act to bring an end to Kony’s atrocities. This campaign’s manipulative appeal to knee-jerk white savior impulses generated an astonishing outpouring of support. But IC’s call to capture Kony was, at its heart, also a call for US military intervention in East Africa. In the name of capturing Kony, US troops and aircraft currently operate alongside African Union and UPDF forces in Uganda and a number of other nations with contiguous borders. It is worth noting that Uganda has long occupied a special place in US security thinking, damn the consequences. This latest expansion provides new cover to a longstanding military alliance.

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Photo Credits Glenna Gordon

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