Joseph Kony documentary: bringing the world's attention to the horrific Lord's Resistance Army

An activist group called Invisible Children has produced a 29-minute documentary on Joseph Kony, the leader of Uganda's horrific Lord's Resistance Army, which recruits by kidnapping children and beating and abusing them until they serve as soldiers. Invisible Children hopes that viewers of the video will be inspired to "go viral" with the campaign in a coordinated action on April 20 that, they hope, will spur the world's governments into taking decisive action against the LRA.

Wired's Spencer Ackerman describes the early success of the campaign and the criticisms that it has drawn from other human rights activists who say the video is "obfuscating" and accuse it of oversimplifying the complexities of US military intervention.

The visually sophisticated documentary tells the story of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s brutal history in Uganda — it doesn’t say much about Kony’s flight to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic — mostly through the eyes of Jacob, a child refugee whose brother was killed by the militia. At one point, the boy says he would prefer to die rather than to live in the world Kony has made. It hits like an emotional sledgehammer.

And that lays the foundation for the campaign the movie essentially advertises. The nonprofit group behind it, Invisible Children, supports President Obama’s recent deployment of 100 military advisers to Uganda to help its army hunt Kony, a decision that required years of grassroots demands from humanitarian activists. In order to make sure the pressure keeps up, and Kony is ultimately arrested — this year — Invisible Children wants to plaster the cities of the world with red, visually striking KONY 2012 posters, stickers and t-shirts.

The video is essentially a plea to take the campaign viral in time for a planned action on April 20, in which Invisible Children hopes to mass-advertise KONY 2012 that night, globally, so the world will “wake up to hundreds of thousands of posters.” Action kits containing stickers, posters, bracelets, information and t-shirts are going for a $30 donation on the group’s website. And the filmmakers want to enlist celebrities, athletes and politicians for the campaign, everyone from Sen. John Kerry to Bono to Mark Zuckerberg.

Viral Video Hopes to Spur Arrest of War Criminal


  1. So let me get this straight: The guy who made this video is creating an “army for peace.” OK. But this “army’s” sole purpose is apparently to goad the US government into sending the REAL Army into another sovereign country to kill another bad guy? I thought this was Bad Policy (TM). Oh! That’s right. It WAS. Under the Bush administration. But it’s cool now that a Democrat is in office? Gotcha.
    It’s clear that military force has a role to play in this New World Order. You don’t get guys like Kony to quit what they’re doing by asking nicely. I just wish that this call to action wasn’t masked behind touchy-feely liberalism. It’s WAR that they’re calling for, and I agree it’s a WAR that ought to be fought. At least be up front and honest about it.

    1. Nop, all your guesses are wrong, the campaign is to force the government to do something, to see them react to a community driven campaign. That will expose all kinds of corruption everywhere.
      It is not about military, its not about Uganda. Its about the fact that we are talking about it and at some point Mister President Obama will have to make an statement. That is the interesting part. This is the first problem to be fixed.
      There is no “agenda behind it” because it is not possible, this is an agenda that is going to be written as we go. Don’t you see it?

      1. The government is already doing something, and has been for years now. Right now, in Uganda, there are far, FAR more pressing issues than Joseph Kony. (Lest you think I exaggerate, please read the many blogs on this written by people and aid workers who have actually spent time on the ground there.) Widespread disease, corruption, abuse by their own military each pose geometrically worse threats to the children (and adults) of Uganda than Kony does. Invisible Children’s easy-to-lap-up idealism offers nothing in terms of practical solutions to any of Uganda’s problems, of which, I’m truly sorry to say, the Kony of 2012 is barely a footnote.

        There’s a thin line between being idealistic and being credulous, and this video has caused millions of people to cross that line with its manipulative, lachrymose framing of its case. By all means, let’s see IC make a video about so-called nodding disease, which is afflicting more children than Kony ever could. And by the way, instead of tear-jerking appeals featuring rosy-cheeked suburban American cherubs, how about outlining some practical steps to help mitigate its effects? Because I don’t think any money sent to IC so they can have villagers make more bracelets (and pay them pennies for their labor) that IC can sell for $20 is helping anything except IC’s video production budgets, their egos, and their overinflated sense of self-importance.

        1. Well, what I really meant is that is not about asking the government to do anything. It is about seeing the reaction of the government. Seeing your reaction, and my reaction. It is about testing if public awareness will bring something to all the wrong things happening in the world that WE could help fix.

          Forget Uganda, think of what else we could accomplish when we have the means to hold our government accountable.
          This is about that reset button that needs to be pressed.I’ve heard it from Shirky Clay, from Cory Doctorow and in a thousand Ted talks.

          I can have more hope on this movement that in any other politic figure or organization. Just for the fact that this will be community driven, even if it got started by filmmakers-hipsters-tree-huger organization, whatever thing they say about them.

          The next step in human evolution is the connection of everybody’s consience into a common one, that will create a new organism name “humanity”. We are not humans, we are humanity. The same way that bees work for the hive’s good, we must start treating ourselves as a whole not as individuals. 

          “An organism at war with itself is doomed” -Carl Sagan

          Forgive me for being a little idealistic and naive but this shit has to stop some day and I want to live the days were nobody is suffering. End the days were your dog has a better life than a person. If you don’t want that world too bad for you and your ego, because there is nothing else keeping you from making a better world. These are the tools.

          Oh, and I am going to read those blogs you are recommending, just be aware that I am reading them because IC made me aware of them. Not you, not my government, and certainly not CNN or Fox News.

          1. I get what you are saying and appreciate your sincerity. (Not so much your inferences re: my ego and concomitant desires.) 

            And of course like all right-thinking people, I too yearn for a day when we can all rise above our differences and join in common humanity. But in my worldview, that end will be derived only if we speak the truth, free of distortion and self-aggrandizement — surely the antithesis of the idealism you describe. But we’re not talking about generalities here. We’re talking about a specific and very misguided campaign here, a heady brew of misinformation, misrepresentation, and rather shameless manipulation, dipped in equal parts cheap & easy  tears and enlarged ego-sauce. If we’re going to get to that place you describe, and we’re going to bring everyone along with us, we have to speak the truth, not dress up a half-baked version of it with whizzy space footage and adorable white American moppets crying until Daddy promises he will save those poor little African babies.

            We need the truth, and we need it badly — a commodity in short supply, it seems — if we’re going to make any real changes. And what’s more, we need to lose this attitude that the well-meaning white folks, like IC, Brad, George, Angelina et al can swoop in on a place, spend a few weeks and diagnose centuries-old social and political problems that in many ways were spawned by white imperialism in the first place. The solution to Africa’s problems begins with Africans of every nation. 

            Robert Fripp has a great aphorism which applies here. “Don’t be helpful. Be available.” Meaning, many times our attempts to “help” are based on, at best, an incomplete understanding of what’s really going on, and our “help” thus often causes more problems than it solves. To me one of the biggest problems facing Africa is all the “help” we give — which often (though not always) turns out at best to be Band-Aids on deep, deep wounds, and at worst a means for corrupt tyrants to consolidate their power and fill their pockets. 

            Perhaps it’s time to ask Africans — not the power-mongering corrupt leaders who are in control of much of Africa — what their solutions might be, and be ready to help them in specific ways when they ask for it.

            We don’t need well-meaning white messiahs setting the agenda for change in Africa. It’s not our place, it’s not our right, and from what I read, it’s pissing off a lot of Africans.

        1. Which is essentially what IC is asking for. Backing the Ugandan army in their pursuit of Joseph Kony. Which they have done. Your point being?

          1. I liked what you wrote up there, I couldn’t reply to it, for some reason the button is not there.

            I understand what you are saying. have you seen how society celebrates lies? Everything is a lie, everything is manipulation. I don’t know how many times I have seen kiva-like projects that even when they are not based on lies and they are great, nobody pays attention to them. People in general are so used to lies that I think that that is why this film is genius! 

            It is utilizing all this celebrities, and junk media that everybody likes and are used to, to make the people aware. That is the key, giving people that spark to commit to change. Change has to come from inside of us. So I don’t really care how people get this spirit of change.

            Again, with that spirit of change and the help of technologies to keep everybody accountable. I think that we can go far.

            Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

            I have been reading a lot of resistance to the fact that we can change things. I think that a lot of people are just jealous that they didn’t think of this way to point fingers and get something good out of it.

            If you eliminate Uganda army and put it towards bringing drinkable water to kids, there will still be people arguing about it. Or there might not be this much interest.

          2. My comment was to “boynas” who was suggesting something else. Maybe you didn’t look to see who I was replying to? Otherwise your comment seems very confused. Reading your posts, we are pretty much in agreement on this business.

      2. “the campaign is to force the government to do something”

        That’s not what IC told Liberty University.

  2. Invisible Children offer an incredibly naive and self-aggrandizing view of the situation on the ground in Uganda, and as has been pointed out numerous times in the past few days, spend most of their take on self-promotion.

    The Wired article barely touches on the various shortcomings of their campaign, which are manifold, and by now widely covered in posts all over the Internet.

    And notwithstanding the shortcomings of IC’s approach, this video, honestly, is simply awful — ponderous, bursting with self-importance, manipulative, reductive, and pretentious, smacking as it does of an all-too-typical and  generally counterproductive white-man’s-burden approach to foreign aid.

    Joseph Kony is a murdering swine, on that we can agree; but he’s on the run, his so-called “Army” dwindling to a small contingent and by many accounts, so marginalized as to be starving in hiding. Baying for his blood as if nobody’s ever tried to capture him ignores both the numerous ongoing efforts (often abetted by US forces!) to bring him to justice, and the deadly ramifications of an armed assault on a psychopath who uses children as bodyguards.

    Not to make too much of it, but the extremely risible photo posted on BB yesterday (and all over the ‘net) of the three IC guys looking tough handling guns with the far-from-saintly Uganadan military should tell you all you need to know about these well-intentioned fellows and their messiah complex.

    1.  And the “justice” part should be interesting too, seeing as The U.S. opposes the International Criminal Court.

    2. “naive”

      If you assume they’re sincere. They’re not. They’re cryptofundamentalists who lecture at Liberty University.

  3. It should go without saying that Kony is a bad, bad guy. But lots of people have said that Invisible Children is a shady charity.  Last year, they spent 8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services, while the rest went to stuff like staff salaries, travel and transport, film production, etc. You can see their financial statement here (the breakdown of program expenses is on page 6) : PDF   

    HT:  for the link to financials and for the math. 

    1. Moderator note: Please do not use URL shorteners. And if you use one to mask a pdf again, I will have to hurt you.

    2. The rest went to stuff like film production? Isn’t raising awareness, and therefore film production, their primary goal? It’s not exactly fair to consider that wasted money. Raising awareness is sometimes a much more effective way to spend money than trying to fix everything on your own.

  4. This is what happens when you have folks with the ability to exploit the rapid publishing and distribution powers of the internet to shout simple, naive statements to the masses without paying attention to recent history.

    And don’t even get me started on the guys behind that Kony video.

  5. I’m online most of the time and yet I couldn’t make heads or tails of this “Kony” business due to the noise it generated.

    I actually appreciate Cory’s straightforward reporting on this issue, contrary to what several posters have said here.

  6. So, demand US Military Aid. US sends such military aid. An Advise and Assist unit comes into contact with some of these jokers using kids as soldiers. Some 19 y/o US Infantryman kills one of these combatants and I wonder whos going to back him up? These same people will be calling for that Private’s head. Not saying its not a war worth fighting, just hoping these guys that are so quick to send us, will back us up if we have to do the job.

  7. Apparently there’s also another side to the story calling it irresponsible. The Telegraph writes: “Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist specialising in peace and conflict reporting, said: “This paints a picture of Uganda six or seven years ago, that is totally not how it is today. It’s highly irresponsible”.”
    Read more here:

  8. Cory I appreciate your neutral post on this story. Thank you very much. People may not agree with this campaign but the goal was to bring awareness and it succeeded. It is another powerful example on the strength of social media and how young people can influence politics in their own country. So many people just hid in their shells and do nothing and support nothing. You may not agree with the charity or cause, but bravo for someone trying to make a difference and for building a voice to try to make the world a better place. No solution or approach is perfect. Constructive criticism is important, attacks are childish.

    1. “the goal was to bring awareness and it succeeded.”

      Oh give me a break. The goal is to fundraise and promote IC. Awareness has been over the last TWENTY YEARS. Ugundans have bigger problems than Kony, and they certainly don’t need liars from IC to tell a different story than reality presents.


    ‎”Government officials in the Central Africa Republic have expressed what appears to be a commonly-held belief that the UPDF does not want to end the threat of the LRA, as this would end US aid to it for LRA operations. At both government and local levels, a worrying conviction seems to have been formed, which holds that chasing the LRA is a pretext for Uganda to maintain an invading force in CAR indefinitely. Such views have been fueled by claims that former LRA combatants are quickly integrated into UPDF units once captured, without proper demobilisation and reintegration processes.

    In fact, the report claims that at least one third of the total UPDF force chasing LRA groups is composed of former LRA combatants. It is further claimed that former LRA combatants receive no payment for their efforts. The report says the fighters are deceived that their salaries are to be obtained once they are back in Uganda.” 

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