Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Foreign Policy: Invisible Children Responds

While Kony 2012 was being released, I was working with Invisible Children staff and community leaders in DR Congo on civilian protection initiatives. I was astonished to see the view count climb into the millions. None of us expected that a 29-minute film about Joseph Kony would go viral — or that the backlash would include criticisms that Invisible Children was unaware of the current location of the LRA, when, in fact, our work has extended into currently-affected regions of central Africa over the last two years.
What was perhaps most surprising to see in the wake of Kony 2012 was the misperception that the LRA are still in Uganda. Kony 2012 does portray the LRA’s movement away from Uganda into DR Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), and South Sudan (15:01), and a quick look at theLRA Crisis Tracker leaves no doubt about the LRA’s current area of operation. Yet somehow the message in the film fell short of getting the point across. Perhaps it was due to the focus on a young Ugandan who was affected by the conflict, or perhaps it is driven by the unfortunate fact that only 20% of viewers actually watched the entire film, and the rest may have missed a few crucial details.
There has been much discussion about the video’s impact in the days since Kony 2012 launched, but unfortunately almost none of the opinions have come from the three countries currently affected by the LRA. The insight of local leaders in DR Congo, CAR, and South Sudan has been largely excluded from the broader conversation, as has theirviewpoint on the apprehension of LRA leadership in 2012, and it is clear that the current discourse needs to expand.