A video targeting Ugandan warlord Josef Kony, wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), has gone viral on the internet and gained more than 40 million views on YouTube.
The video is part of the California-based NGO Invisible Children’s “Kony 2012” campaign, which seeks the capture of the leader of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Christian extremist group known for atrocities including war crimes, forcible enlistment of children under the age of 15, sexual slavery and rape.
Invisible Children said on its website that the video campaign was meant to “make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.”
But the organization has been criticized for alleged cooperation with the Ugandan government and for encouraging Western military intervention in Africa.
“Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting Kony 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away,” writes one critic in a Tumblr page that collects criticism of the campaign.
Invisible Children has responded to critics with a statement posted on its website, invisiblechildren.com, and denied claims that it supports the Ugandan government and allegations that its “Kony 2012” campaign was encouraging foreign intervention.
“We do not defend any of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Ugandan government or the Ugandan army (UPDF). None of the money donated through Invisible Children ever goes to the government of Uganda or any other government. Yet the only feasible and proper way to stop Kony and protect the civilians he targets is to coordinate efforts with regional governments,” according to the organization’s statement.
Following the massive campaign, Amnesty International has said the arrest of Kony “must be carried out in accordance with human rights standards.”
“Anyone joining the Kony 2012 campaign should insist that efforts to arrest Joseph Kony must respect human rights. It is also vital to make sure that any action ensures the protection of civilians in the surrounding areas,” Amnesty said in a statement posted on its website.
“Joseph Kony and other LRA leaders have evaded arrest for far too long and this campaign is a salient reminder of the continuing crimes by LRA members and the need to arrest and surrender their leaders to the ICC so they can face trial,” said Erwin van der Borght, Africa director at Amnesty International.
The international human rights organization said efforts to arrest Kony should be led by the governments of African countries not by the U.S. armed forces.
“The U.N. and the African Union, both of which are involved in the effort to arrest the LRA suspects, also have an essential role to play in supporting efforts to arrest the LRA leaders, in protecting affected communities and monitoring and reporting on the status of human rights protection,” Amnesty said.