“Have you heard about Kony?” is a question that I was astounded to have addressed to me by a 14-year-old urbanite girl in a café in New York City.
“Joseph Kony?” I asked, incredulous.
<="" p="">The sentence below this picture neatly sums up how disgusting this man is.
“The man who forces children to kill each other and uses girl’s as sex slaves,” she clarified in a remarkably matter-of-fact way. I was astounded.
I do know Kony. At least, I know of Kony. There are very few people who can truly claim to know him. Even the child soldiers who grew to men in his army, or the captive young girls who came traumatically to womanhood bearing his children have been brainwashed by the self-created mythology of the man. When I spoke to those who knew him intimately most still believed that Kony possessed magical powers.>
They had unshakable faith that he could overhear our conversation even hundreds of kilometres away.
“He knows the future and that is how he avoids capture,” they would say. “He can control nature”, they would claim. “Kony buries himself every year in the sand and covers his body with ants to rejuvenate his magic,” some would whisper. “He uses potions that blur memory and the sap the desire to escape,” one would confess.
For years I’ve wanted to know more about Joseph Kony. In 2010, reporting for Dateline on SBS, I took my camera and trekked through the Central African jungle in the company of the Ugandan People’s Defence Force (UPDF). We combed the jungle on foot, always just behind the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
The signs of Kony’s passing were everywhere. In the grass. In the trees. In the carcasses that his men had made a meal of and left behind in their tracks.
Now people do know of him. In one brilliant sweeping act of humanitarian propaganda hundreds of millions of people heard his name across the blink of 48 hours last week.
The Kony 2012 video is not a documentary. It is not a piece of journalism. It is agit-prop: art designed to agitate and propagate an idea. Through that lens it is almost unbelievably successful.
As a result of Kony 2012 the image of Joseph Kony in the western world may never be the contoured, complex, intriguing, horrifying image that it is throughout east and central Africa.
This simplified rendition of Kony as evil incarnate has consumed his actual form. The message received by the public, by Washington, by celebrities and their Twitterati is now as simple as that delivered by a young girl in a café in New York.
There is an evil man out there. He captures children and condemns them to a life not worth living. He can be stopped if we only care enough.
He should be stopped. Not because as the video implies (but doesn’t state directly) that he still has tens of thousands of children in his army. He doesn’t. His cadre numbers have been reduced to the lowest in the LRA’s history. While it’s impossible to say exactly, most intelligence suggests that he is down to a few hundred soldiers at most.
He should be stopped not because he has developed these new “tactics” referenced in the video. His biggest tactical change of late was to break up his larger army into satellite units commanded by his long time lieutenants. Many of his best men were captured and Joseph Kony is now left largely without long-serving LRA commanders.
And he should be stopped not because it is as easy as just caring enough to act. Joseph Kony has evaded capture for 25 years by keeping to a terrain he knows better than anyone alive. The sustained effort to bring him to the dock has reduced Kony to his current, by all accounts, frightened state.
But finishing him off is far from easy. He moves through the jungles which cut across the borders of Congo, Southern Sudan, and the Central African republic. It’s an area so vast it makes Tora Bora look like a bunker. And in the quiet of the jungle any approach by helicopter can be heard well in advance. Anyone who goes after Joseph Kony is going into an ambush.
But if Kony 2012 can rally a concerted effort from the United States or the international community which finally brings Kony to justice, it will be an astounding demonstration of the power of social media.
If this campaign helps in any way to spell the end of one of Africa’s most disturbing modern chapters, it will undoubtedly alter the game of international politics and NGO lobbying. If it doesn’t, then rather than being cynical about this moment, we should at least be heartened that so many people who had never even heard his name, have responded in even a small way about the grand injustice represented by Kony continuing to live free.
I don’t agree with Invisible Children about everything they say, or with every tool they use prosecuting their fascinating human rights campaign. But I do agree that Kony needs to be known.
And I’d like to thank them for making him famous.
Aaron Lewis’s report on hunting down Joseph Kony will be shown on Dateline, Tuesday at 9.30pm on SBS ONE
Monday, March 12, 2012
Catching #Kony wont be easy | The Punch