Kony 2012 Spurs Local Action

Most people had never heard of the name Joseph Kony until recently when a video called "Kony 2012" went viral, with over 38 million hits so far.

The video was created by a group called "Invisible Children." It talks about Joseph Kony, a militia leader in Africa who is wanted by the international criminal court for atrocities like turning the girls into sex slaves, and the boys into child soldiers.

The goal of the video is to bring more awareness about what's going on there.

Dawn Hill of Washington is one of the many people who watched the video, then decided they wanted to do something. Hill says, "A lot of emotions you know, how could people do this to these kids, and how would I would feel if it was my brother, or how their families feel, it just made me feel bad."

Dawn and a friend have organized an event called "cover the night" where they plan to put posters up to bring more awareness. It will take place on April 20th in Washington. Many other communities are doing the same thing that night.

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KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) -- If Joseph Kony lived in relative anonymity before this week, he's an Internet star now.

A video about the atrocities carried out by Kony's Lord's Resistance Army has gone viral, racking up millions more views seemingly by the hour.

The marketing campaign is an effort by the advocacy group Invisible Children to vastly increase awareness about a jungle militia leader who is wanted for atrocities by the International Criminal Court and is being hunted by 100 U.S. Special Forces advisers and local troops in four Central African countries.

The group's 30-minute video, which was released Monday, had more than 26 million views on YouTube by Thursday. The movie is part of an effort called KONY 2012 that targets Kony and the LRA.

"Kony is a monster. He deserves to be prosecuted and hanged," said Col. Felix Kulayigye, the spokesman for Uganda's military.

But Kulayigye said that Kony's forces - once thousands strong - have been so degraded that he no longer considers Kony a threat to the region. Because of the intensified hunt for Kony, his forces split into smaller groups that can travel the jungle more easily.

Experts estimate that the LRA now has only about 250 fighters. Still, the militia abducts children, forcing them to serve as soldiers or sex slaves, and even to kill their parents or each other to survive. The LRA now operates in Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Uganda, Invisible Children and #stopkony were among the top 10 trending terms on Twitter among both the worldwide and U.S. audience on Wednesday night, ranking higher than New iPad or Peyton Manning. Twitter's top trends more commonly include celebrities than fugitive militants.

Jolly Okot was abducted in 1986 by the militia group that later became the LRA. The then-18-year-old could speak English so was valuable to the militants. She was also forced to have sex.

Today, Okot is the Uganda country director for Invisible Children, in charge of 105 employees. She said the group is helping 800 people affected by LRA violence to attend high school and university. She said the program has given hope to kids who previously dropped out of the education system.

"The most exciting thing about this film is that I'm so grateful that the world has been able to pay attention to an issue that has long been neglected," Okot said. "I think it is an eye-opener and I think this will push for Joseph Kony to be apprehended, and I think justice will get to him."

Ben Keesey, Invisible Children's 28-year-old chief executive officer, said the viral success shows their message resonates and that viewers feel empowered to force change. It was released on the website http://www.kony2012.com.

The burst of attention has also brought with it some criticism on Internet sites of Invisible Children's work, including the ratio of the group's spending on direct aid, its rating by the site Charity Navigator, and a 2008 photo of three Invisible Children members holding guns alongside troops from the country now known as South Sudan.

Invisible Children posted rebuttals to the criticism on its website, saying that it has spent about 80 percent of its funds on programs that further its mission, about 16 percent on administration and management, and about 3 percent on fundraising. The group said its accountability and transparency score is currently low because it has four independent voting members on its board of directors and not five, but that it is seeking to add a fifth. The group said the three workers in the photo thought it would be a good "joke" photo for family and friends.

Kony's Ugandan rebel group is blamed for tens of thousands of mutilations and killings over the last 26 years.

Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, the top U.S. special operations commander for Africa, told reporters last month that U.S. troops are now stationed in bases in Uganda, Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic as part of the anti-LRA fight. Losey said there's been a decrease in the lethality of LRA activities attributable to U.S. and partner nation efforts.

Ruhakana Rugunda, the Ugandan diplomat who led the country's failed peace negotiations with Kony in 2006, said the work of organizations such as Invisible Children preserves the memory of an insurgency whose brutal legacy should never be forgotten. The talks with Kony, mediated by South Sudan, ended in 2008 after the rebel leader refused to sign the final peace agreement, saying he could not guarantee his security once he left the bush.

The last known images of Kony show him shaking hands, and sometimes smiling, with dignitaries visiting his camp. Some images showed him wearing a suit and shiny black shoes.

"Kony gives you the impression that he is harmless, that he cannot catch a fly," Rugunda said, recalling his conversations with Kony, who was an altar boy before he became an elusive rebel leader.

Rugunda last saw Kony in a forested camp in eastern Congo before the rebel leader and his men fled to the Central African Republic, where they have retained the capacity to harass villagers for food.

Rugunda said that capturing Kony alive would set in motion a "full accountability mechanism" in which the world would get to know how it came to be that Kony committed the many crimes he is accused of.

(The photo on this story is from July 31, 2006. It shows Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, during a meeting with a delegation of 160 officials and lawmakers from northern Uganda and representatives of non-governmental organizations in Congo near the Sudan border.)


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 15, 2012 at 03:11 PM
    the kony 2012 thing is a scam kony hasnt even been to uganda in 4 yrs this is about the gov. trying to interfere in africa dont give in to the bs.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 9, 2012 at 11:41 PM
    No man is an island.
  • by Anonymous on Mar 9, 2012 at 07:45 PM
    Has anyone noticed that it is the same people who use their celebrity status and money to either push their own political agendas and ideals on everyone that this money making racket is targeting? Clooney, Jolie, Her Holiness Oprah, Zuckerberg, Gates, Bono, etc. SSDD.
  • by EBM on Mar 9, 2012 at 05:54 PM
    The financial reports are public and posted on the website (audited and verified by third party accounting w/ no connections to IC) The mission of the organization is global and they participate in 9 other initiatives besides KONY2012..yes please do what you feel led to do for whomever you choose. I chose to donate, I also choose to be a active volunteer in my community for other organizations. The backlash about this video is ridiculous and the IC mission is to create videos and raise awareness which they have done quite well with this one. Usually they travel the country incurring costs for travel and presentation..this is better exposure than they could have imagined and comparing their budget to produce and release on Vimeo vs the previous years videos and travel the end result will be more children they are able to help. One blogger posted false financial documents and they are only rated 2 vs 4 stars because they did not have an independent voting board of directors however that addition to the organization was in process long before the release of the video. The Guardian (UK) has a wonderful article presenting both sides of the case. Maybe they will be able to do more in other countries with the windfall generated by this video. No child anywhere should live in fear and I bet if you had seen your brother's neck slashed, you would feel quite differently whether he is in your back yard in Uganda or in Sudan as is currently the rumor. Is it so much to ask US advisors to put pressure on Ugandan officials to quit turning a blind eye to the atrocities that have befallen that country for years? We can keep 1000s of troops in the Middle East to defend a war that we should have been out of long ago, I myself would prefer deployment to Uganda. I do hope all of this attention does not endanger the soldiers already there.
  • by A real problem on Mar 9, 2012 at 01:39 PM
    I can totally understand folks wanting to "help people in the US". If you aren't financially able to do both, please DO choose to help where you feel led. If you don't approve of this organizations finances, then choose a different organization to help. Bottom line: this is a real problem that is heartbreaking. It's not the only heartbreaking problem in the world--true; but heartbreaking nonetheless. If you are a praying person, I ask that you pray for these children. Pray for those trying to help these children. These "child soldiers" aren't anything new. Just like abused children in our country, until the cycle is broken, the abuse and violence will continue through more generations.
  • by Just sayin Location: Washington on Mar 9, 2012 at 10:11 AM
    If people would use as much time and concern for whats going on in OUR OWN COUNTRY, rather spending so much of it trying to fix other country's, maybe we could get our's back on track and out of this ridiculous wasteful hole we are in right now. Thats one of the problems with society, they look elsewhere for problems...look around you every once in a while and realize the problems right in front of you in your homeland that you can fight for. And thats also the problem with our country, it wants to spend spend and spend money to fix other countries issues rather than face and fix the issues they have caused here. A cover up to make them look like they care just like the normal citizen that goes looking elsewhere for problems to fix..Just sayin...
  • by barb on Mar 9, 2012 at 08:33 AM
    Please remember that just because it is on youtube or facebook doesn't mean it is true. This organization have very questionable financial reports and being international means they are hard to track. Always check out charities at Charity Navigator. WITN --check out your sources please before you do stories. This one may make you look like you have no news integrity.
  • by stay at home Location: Greenville on Mar 9, 2012 at 07:43 AM
    Volunteer at the local Boys and Girls Club, become a big brother or big sister, tutor an inner city, at-risk kid in your community - this way, you can help keep guns out of kids' hands here and actually see the result of your work as opposed to sending it overseas. Its a lot easier to be a humanitarian, however, by sending off a $35 check, isn't it?
  • by Bubba Location: Ivory Coast on Mar 9, 2012 at 07:07 AM
    Be careful. Many scams coming out of Africa and this could be another one. Kidnapping children and forcing them to fight is nothing new in Africa.
  • by Juan Carlos Ramirez on Mar 9, 2012 at 06:52 AM
    I am a student at D.H. Conley & I support this movement. But sadly yesterday I posted a bunch of "kony 2012" papers all over my school & got in trouble. At least I got it known. Lets support!
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