Thursday, March 8, 2012 at 5:03 AM

Tweeting the Genocidal Joseph Kony to Death?

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

It speaks volumes about the confluence of virtual reality and reality that erstwhile sensible people seem convinced that a one-day chain of celebrity tweets can do more to defeat Africa’s most brutal guerrilla fighter, Joseph Kony, than foot soldiers who have been on non-stop search-and-kill missions to get him for more than a decade.

Specifically, much is being made in the media this week about the U.S.-based group Invisible Children deploying tweets to “bring an end to [Kony’s] Lords Resistance Army.” To this end, this once-obscure group is making headlines for enlisting celebrities like Taylor Swift and Rihanna to tweet pithy messages tagged “#StopKony2012” to their millions of followers.

These tweets also link to a slick video that chronicles Kony’s crimes against humanity in propaganda fashion that makes Hitler seem sympathetic. However, for an audience whose attention span is limited to 140 characters or a 90-second video, I doubt more than a handful of people will bother to watch the entire 30 minutes of this Kony documentary.

Frankly, Invisible Children’s entire campaign smacks of little more than a feel-good PR stunt (perhaps even a misleading ploy to raise funds for administrative rather than charitable purposes). In fact, I would wager a fair amount of my pride that if you were to ask Rihanna or any of her followers a week from today who Joseph Kony is, they would react as if you asked what the Higgs Boson is….

Though, to be charitable, I suppose Invisible Children’s thinking is that if pro-democracy protesters could use Facebook to depose Mubarak, then idle-minded twitterers can use Twitter to “Stop Kony” (whatever that means).

Except that Facebook was useful only insofar as it enabled people on the ground in Egypt to organize mass protests on a persistent basis, which ended up posing a direct, immediate, and demonstrably untenable threat to the Mubarak regime. Whereas, apart from placing Kony in the same black hole of public consciousness where Darfur and African famine reside, I don’t see the point of this Twitter campaign.

For example, does anyone think a similar campaign would have helped in any way to bring an end to Osama bin Laden? I think not.

On the other hand, the folks at Invisible Children should take hope from President Obama’s decision (reported in the October 14, 2011 edition of the Washington Post) to deploy U.S. Special Forces to assist local forces in their ongoing hunt for Kony.

In the meantime, lest I come across as just a bystander pooh-poohing Invisible Children’s efforts, what follows is a reprise of If You Think Idi Amin Was Evil, Meet Joseph Kony. I wrote it six years ago (on March 27, 2006), when this genocidal maniac was committing the worst of his crimes and the Ugandan people would have welcomed the moral and financial support now being orchestrated ostensibly on their behalf.

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Guerrilla warfare has been as commonplace (and un-newsworthy) in Africa over the past three decades as suicide bombings have become in Iraq over the past three years. And, tragically, it is not an anomaly for children to be on the front lines of the bloody struggles that have made Africa the most war-ravaged continent in the world.

(I lamented in Genocide in the DR Congo: Rwanda With a Vengeance, The iPINIONS Journal, April 6, 2006 the plight of child soldiers who must kill or be killed in the ongoing insurgency in DR Congo.)

Therefore, it is truly a testament to the venality of Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony that his name incites revulsion and fear that most Africans have not experienced since, well, the brutal reign of former Ugandan President Idi Amin 30 years ago.

Kony is a former altar boy who, in 1987, assumed the mantle of messianic leadership in the Lords Resistance Army to continue their rebellion against the Ugandan government, which has raged now for 20 years.

Unlike most rebels (like Jonas Savimbi of Angola or Laurent Kabila of Zaire) – who at least claimed a political mission to liberate their people from government oppression – Kony wants to turn Uganda into a Taliban-style state based not on Sharia law, but on strict adherence to the Ten Commandments – all ten of which he violates every day….

Actually, Kony’s so-called army is to Uganda what the Medellin drug cartel is to Columbia: an organized group of thugs who have successfully co-opted every facet of life in a small area of a big country. In this case, Kony has become the Carlos Escobar of the Ugandan town of Lira.

But where drug lords intimidate, bribe, and kill government officials to help facilitate their illicit trade, Kony kidnaps, tortures, and kills innocent children (as young as 10). Those who survive his pederastic initiation “become soldiers in his army and then go on to kidnap, torture, and kill other children” in this cycle of unspeakable depravity that has plagued Northern Uganda for almost two decades.

In fact, The Lancet medical journal reports that, over this period, Kony’s gang has kidnapped an estimated “20,000 children to serve as fighters, porters and sex slaves.”

All too often we blame the legacy of colonialism for the problems that beset so many countries in Africa. Yet it is undeniable that kleptocracy (e.g., Nigeria), ethnic rivalries (Rwanda), and pandemic incompetence are far more to blame. Moreover, nothing in the annals of European colonialism can account for what Kony is doing to fellow Africans in Uganda, what Robert Mugabe is doing in Zimbabwe, and what Charles Taylor did in Liberia.

I first read about Joseph Kony about 10 years ago. But it wasn’t until I read a cautionary exposé on him by Christopher Hitchens in the January 2006 issue of Vanity Fair that I got a real appreciation for the depth and scope of his atrocities. However, I’m not so naïve as to think that anything Hitchens or I write about Kony will have any impact on his rampaging activities in Lira. But for those who struggle with feelings of inefficacy in the face of such inhumanity, here’s what you can do:

A very reputable NGO in Gulu provides safe houses for the children of Lira who walk miles to sleep there every night to avoid being kidnapped from their homes by Kony’s night bandits. I urge you to google “night commuters” to read more about these children and to see how you can help fund their safety until Kony is captured or killed….

NOTE: Here’s a Ugandan boy’s drawing of a Lord’s Resistance Army attack on his village. Unfortunately, such images comprise the nightmares of Ugandan children as much as images of playing sports comprise the dreams of American children:

Related commentaries:
If you think Idi Amin was bad, meet Joseph Kony
Genocide in DR Congo

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