Kony 2012

In 2004, reported that Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) should face a war crimes tribunal. Kony, a semi-literate former altar boy, took charge in 1988 of a rebellion among northern Uganda’s ethnic Acholi minority, to fight the Kampala government it wanted to replace by a regime based on the Biblical Ten Commandments. Ever since that time, Kony and the LRA have sown terror across a vast region where the borders of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic meet.

The LRA which started as a small group after the demise of Odong Latek's Uganda People's Democratic Army (UPDA) and Alice Lakwena's Holy Spirit Movement rebel groups in the late 1980's, has for decades been known for heartless atrocities against innocent unarmed civilians mostly in the Acholi region of Uganda.

The rebels are known for abducting tens of thousands of children, killings and brutalities like chopping off lips, legs and arms of innocent civilians. The rebels' excuses for these atrocities have always been that the civilians are betraying them by reporting their presence to the government army and therefore deserve the atrocities. The rebels are also notorious for kidnapping boys to serve as child soldiers and girls to act as sex slaves.

But it took until March 2012, when an online video made by a U.S. advocacy group, and seen by millions of people around the world, to bring Kony back in the press. The video, Kony 2012, by Invisible Children, depicted the brutal actions of the Ugandan warlord and was viewed by more than 100 million people, generating new interest in Kony. A day after the video went viral celebrities and Twit-lebrities got involved, with everyone from Justin Bieber to Oprah Winfrey (who has 9.7 million followers on Twitter), encouraging their millions of followers to support Invisible Children, the nonprofit behind Kony 2012.  

And some think it spurned the African Union to recently announce that it will form a 5,000-strong brigade to hunt down Kony and the LRA, believed to be hiding in the jungles of central Africa. The brigade will be led by Uganda and include troops from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan, the countries that have been ravaged by LRA raids.

Pernille Ironside, senior adviser for child protection in emergencies at Unicef, said: "Girls are regularly abducted and sexually enslaved by the LRA. In the Central African Republic, a girl who was a wife of Joseph Kony described to me the terror under which she lived. She saw friends of hers trying to escape and they were brutally slaughtered in front of her as a deterrent to everyone else. At times the LRA has released people and left them behind so they can move faster. Many of the girls have babies with them. The wife described situations where babies made too much noise and were hacked to death and served as a meal.  What most people lose sight of is the need for these children to receive long-term support. It's not about quick fixes.”

While there have been mixed responses to Kony 2012 and its alleged oversimplification, the UN and others were quick to welcome the International Criminal Court (ICC) verdict as a watershed moment and potential deterrent against the future recruitment of child soldiers.

Abou Moussa, the UN envoy in the region, told the BBC that Kony was believed to be in the Central African Republic. He said the LRA had dwindled in size but was still creating havoc. Mousa also stated that anti-LRA measures were being coordinated since November of last year when the UN Security Council discussed the case. 

U.S. President Barack Obama also presented Congress in November with a plan to disarm the LRA rebels. The strategy responds to a law Obama proposed and Congress passed six months earlier to defuse the spiraling bloodshed in central Africa, protect the civilian population and bring LRA leaders to justice.

Joseph Kony’s immediate capture and delivery to ICC would be an unambiguous victory for humanity. It is the solution for which affected Africans have desperately, unanimously pleaded.

Moussa said international interest in Kony had been "useful, very important." The force will be based in South Sudan and is expected to receive assistance from the U.S. army.  Ministers said the force would be disbanded when the threat from Kony was eliminated.

That the Kony 2012 video has led to increased U.S. pressure on the Ugandan regime to catch the LRA leader, is by far the most dramatic demonstration of how an idea can spread over the globe via the Internet, and is a testament to the power of social media.