Within 10 hours of its creation on Tuesday, more than 1,200 Queen’s students had joined a Facebook event that hopes to raise support for Joseph Kony’s arrest.
It’s part of the global campaign Kony 2012, started by American non-governmental organization Invisible Children.
Kony, the leader of the rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), has evaded capture since being indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005.
The LRA is notorious for its use of child soldiers throughout central Africa.
On Monday, Invisible Children launched a media campaign that featured a 30-minute documentary calling for Kony’s capture.
By Tuesday, the Kony 2012 movement had followers from all over the world. It calls on participants to help plaster their cities with posters of Kony on April 20 in a Cover the Night event, in order to spread awareness about his crimes.
A Facebook event for a Queen’s screening of the film was started on Tuesday, as well as a group for a Queen’s Cover the Night event.
“People aren’t exposed to what’s happening around the world,” said first-year commerce student Jessica Whitehead.
She was one of the Facebook event creators.
“Everyone really seems to care a lot about this movement.” Kyla Hackett, an Invisible Children intern and representative to Canada said Invisible Children didn’t expect their documentary to go viral so quickly.
“We had originally wanted 500,000 views on our film, it’s gone into the millions,” she said.
At the time of print more than 43 million people had viewed the documentary on YouTube. Hackett said the organization has produced movements like Kony 2012 in the past.
“This is our 14th tour,” Hackett said, adding that this involves a Ugandan and an America representative promoting the cause and holding film screenings at schools and places of worship.
“Invisible Children is actually a youth based social justice non-profit, we base our movement around pushing our word out through media,” she said.
Although the majority of response to Kony 2012 has been from Western countries like the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom, Hackett said 95 per cent of staff in Invisible Children’s two central African offices are local.
“Our programs and our organization is really based on the belief of locals know best,” she said.
In October 2011, American President Barack Obama ordered that 100 non-combative U.S. troops be deployed in Uganda to stop the LRA and capture Kony.
Hackett said Invisible Children is adamant that the only way to keep these troops in the region is with popular support.
“The criticality of this being this year is we have international support, we have governmental support,” she said.
“Our number one goal for this campaign is for Joseph Kony to be arrested.” Richard Day, undergraduate chair of the global development studies department said that while Kony 2012 supporters have good intentions, it’s unlikely that the campaign will amount to anything.
“The basic idea is if a bunch of white people get upset, that’s going to bring people towards a Western sense of justice,” he said. “It reminds me of Bono.”
Day said the “charity-oriented” movement does offer an opportunity for critical discussion. “What should happen would probably be quite different than what the West has produced as a response,” he said. “It will be a white people thing … that’s colonialism.” Alumnus Peter Stoett, PhD ’94, studies the Lord’s Resistance Army and the International Criminal Court.
He said that if Kony is captured and brought to justice, the entire LRA will crumble.
“This really is one of those fairly rare cases nowadays, where an individual leader is absolutely instrumental to keeping these atrocities ongoing,” Stoett, a professor at Concordia University said. “You need to take out the very top.”
Stoett said the LRA’s actions constitute some of the worst cases of child abuse in history.
Though the LRA originated in Uganda, the rebel group dispersed into neighboring countries.
Since it started in 1987, the LRA has abducted over 30,000 youth from their homes, according to the Invisible Children’s documentary. Children have been taken from Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and south Sudan, amongst other African nations.
“He distributes girls for example to the top military leaders,” Stoett said. “He’s got this system going whereby he rewards people and punishes people.”
Although he’s pleased with the awareness Kony 2012 is bringing, Stoett said those involved in the struggle have been calling for his capture for decades.
“It’s one thing to raise awareness on this it’s another to actually ... capture,” he said. “Actually making that happen has proven extremely difficult.”
Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has ruled the country since 1986.
“Museveni’s been in power just as long as Kony’s been committing the crimes,” said Rignam Wangkhang, an organizer of the Queen’s Cover the Night event. “Clearly we need to hold him accountable for his lack of action.
Wangkhang, ArtSci ’12, said he hopes the movement will make people ask questions.
“It’s not just a case of one person,” he said. “There are other factors involved in all ways.”
This article has been updated to reflect the following correction. More than 30,000 children have been abducted by the LRA which was formed in 1987. Incorrect information appeared in the March 9 issue of the Journal. The Journal regrets the errors.