Glendale College's Student Magazine
Tuesday June 27th 2017

Opinion: Where in the world is Kony?

Invisible Children: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
Invisible Children: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow. Photoillustration by Isiah Reyes

In a world more often at war than at peace, it’s easy to become inured to the images and stories of those left in its wake. Too often the faces of innocent victims blur with those of the intended target. However, history has shown that there are slivers of compassion even in war, and those moments of humanity shine brightest when children are at stake. It is this compassion for and need to protect their innocence that has helped to bring the Invisible Children’s Kony2012 mission to the forefront.

Kony2012 is the organization’s much-publicized effort to bring attention to and help ensure the capture of warlord Joseph Kony, who as head of the Ugandan guerilla rebel group, Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is responsible for ordering the abduction of and enslavement of more than 60,000 children and displaced another 2 million people over the last 26 years.

In a 2006 interview with UN Undersecretary-General Jan Egeland, Kony called himself a “freedom fighter, not a terrorist.” The self-proclaimed “spokesperson of God” orders his soldiers to take children from their beds and kill the remaining family and neighbors, leaving the children orphans with little choice but to join his army. Manipulating the Ten Commandments for his benefit, the admitted polygamist with 88 wives and 42 children of his own, turns the young girls into sex slaves. The boys become soldiers, whose duties include participation in the mutilation of mouths, ears, hands and feet, of innocent people. Those who have managed to escape join those who live in fear of being abducted. They sleep pressed together in rooms by the hundreds, praying that Kony’s army won’t find them.

Sadly, this isn’t new information. In fact the International Criminal Court has held Kony in the number one spot out of 27 on the list of the world’s worst criminals since 2005 for what head prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo calls the “perverse nature of his crimes.”

Joseph Kony
HAVE YOU SEEN THIS WARLORD? Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, and target of the controversial Invisible Children’s viral video campaign, remains at large despite being identified by the International Criminal Court as the “world’s worst criminal,” beating out Gaddafi for the top spot.

So how then could he be in the number one spot above even the late Moammar Gadhafi and be so under the radar around the world? Perhaps because the world didn’t have the incentive to put an end to this genocide in the way it did to end the Gadhafi reign of terror. Cameron Hastings, a political science professor at Glendale Community College, says the lack of attention makes sense. “Kony is a resistance leader and affords less attention.  Similarly, there are feelings in Uganda and elsewhere that eliminating him would not eliminate the problem, and that another leader would be in his shadows to take his place.”

For years Jason Russell and his team form Invisible Children went to the nation’s capital with the information about Kony’s evil deeds, only to be told by every official that “There is no way the US would get involved where our national security and financial interest aren’t at stake.” Their efforts weren’t in vain though, on Oct. 14, 2011 President Barack Obama issued a letter to Invisible Children stating that he had, “authorized a small number of US forces to deploy to central Africa to provide assistance to regional forces that are working toward the removal of Joseph Kony from the battlefield.”

But unfortunately, most of the world still hasn’t heard of Joseph Kony. The tipping point came with the March 5 release of the Kony2012 video. Within days more than 70 million private citizens were watching, sharing, and protesting for an end to the monstrosities perpetrated by Kony. It wasn’t long before the streets were plastered with propaganda for the cause and celebrities rallied behind and joined in the fight. Some critics argue that this video is nothing short of self-serving, a white man’s attempt to look like the good guy. Others say the campaign is sending the wrong message with its “let’s make him famous” slogan. Some question George Clooney’s call for Kony’s face to be plastered on magazine covers as much as his is. Finally, some are left questioning the crediblity of the facts presented. Many say Kony is no longer in Uganda, and that he’s spread out to surrounding areas, so why all the effort to find him there?

Kony may not be in Uganda but some of his subordinates are, and on May 12, with help from the 100 US adviser, top commander for the LRA, Ceasar Achellam, was captured in Uganda. Upon capture Achellam said, “My coming out has made a big impact on the people still remaining in the bush to be encouraged to come out so that sooner maybe the war would come to an end.”

Unfortunately even with the capture of Achellam, Kony is still on the loose, gaining more power as he continues to find ways to elude efforts to catch him.

It seems the world has turned away from this issue and the attention seems to have faded from the headlines. Perhaps we bit off more than we could chew? Or is this a fear of history repeating itself? Hastings says “America was burned pretty badly with the Black Hawk Down incident in Mogadishu, Somalia in which a number of American soldiers were killed, and dragged through the streets. Americans basically said never again to getting involved in Africa.  That was around 1993 and we have not forgotten that lesson.”

The truth is, a terrorist is a terrorist regardless of our interests. Each country has a responsibility to do its part to stop the Konys of the world. How do we do that? Stop acting as though we’re all separate and the issues across the pond or even next door don’t have any effect on us. Rather than fighting fire with fire, let’s come together to teach prevention. As Russell said in regards to his promise to help stop Kony, “That promise isn’t just about Jacob or me, it’s also about you!”

About Leah Arzu
Leah Arzu is a journalism major with an interest in magazine writing and broadcasting. She lives in Burbank with her husband and enjoys traveling, reading, music and lazy beach days.

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