2012 was the year that Invisible Children went pro. You remember the viral campaign, right? Kony 2012?
You should, because last year the outfit raised more than $32 million and they’re not too shy about admitting there’s been a bit of a windfall.
At June 30, they had $15.5 million in cash sitting around, up from $6 million the previous year, a slightly embarrassing amount they confirmed they didn’t know what to do with.
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When Kony 2012 was the topic of the week in March, one of The Punch Team said something cynical about the campaign at a party. Yeah, nice sentiment. Unlikely to spur an arrest in the African wilderness in the next week, though.
Silence descended across the conversation. “Oh yeah. Well… I bought the action pack.” (Jerk.)
That Puncher wasn’t alone in their cyncism. Plenty of commentators carped that the campaign to bring African warlord Joseph Kony to justice within the year wouldn’t achieve results. But if there was one thing that drew out the critics of the campaign (other than the campaign’s chief running around San Francisco naked) - it was the ginormous merchandise-a-thon that accompanied it.
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We should all be ashamed of ourselves. You may not have to like Jason Russell, and you may be sceptical about his Kony 2012 campaign. You may be concerned that the foundation misuses its finances, and Russell’s religious preferences may not be your own.
But I am deeply disturbed by the schadenfreude surrounding Russell’s nervous breakdown and the way it was reported.
Firstly, let’s make one thing clear. Russell wasn’t masturbating, and he wasn’t arrested. There was no evidence that he was intoxicated either. There has been no evidence to corroborate the claims.
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When Grace Arach was 12 she was kidnapped, raped, tortured, and forced to become the wife of one of Joseph Kony’s commanders. She escaped when she was 17. Since then she’s been working to help other child soldiers. Now she’s 25 and has been living in Australia for almost a year. Her family is still in Uganda.
I was in a vehicle with five others, including a Catholic priest, when we were ambushed by the Lord’s Resistance Army. They stopped the vehicle and got us out. There were five men and me. I was a little girl, 12 years old. It was 1996.
We went to a centre where the soldiers looted food and some drinks, then the priest asked the commander that was leading the group that arrested us, he asked: “What about the little girl?”. He said: “I want to take her back to her mother”.
The answer he got was: “Have you ever seen blood flowing?”, meaning if the priest insisted they would kill me.
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“Have you heard about Kony?” is a question that I was astounded to have addressed to me by a 14-year-old urbanite girl in a café in New York City.
“Joseph Kony?” I asked, incredulous.
“The man who forces children to kill each other and uses girls as sex slaves,” she clarified in a remarkably matter-of-fact way. I was astounded.
I do know Kony. At least, I know of Kony. There are very few people who can truly claim to know him. Even the child soldiers who grew to men in his army, or the captive young girls who came traumatically to womanhood bearing his children have been brainwashed by the self-created mythology of the man. When I spoke to those who knew him intimately most still believed that Kony possessed magical powers.>
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So, we all know about Kony 2012, right?
It’s rather extraordinary to think that you’re probably reading this just five days after the Invisible Children campaign exploded over the internet, and yet you’re probably already thinking “I’m so over it!” A week really is an age in internet time.
And yet, I still don’t quite know what to make of it all. On the one hand, the motives of the campaign are very simple: stop an evil bastard. And, of course, it’s hard to argue against that in any way.
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The massive YouTube viewing of Invisible Children’s film “Kony 2012” is nothing short of phenomenal. People are engaged, outraged and quite rightly calling on the International community to do something - in this case, arrest, charge and try Kony in the Hague. People have found their voice against one of the world’s cruelest, most evil men and his regime of hate and terror.
The call for justice is both reasoned and reasonable. I go to Uganda almost every year and see firsthand the impact of Kony’s violence and terror. He should be brought to justice and it should be now.
People quite rightly are asking what Africa is doing about it. Uganda’s inaction against Kony should be seen through the lens of lack of capability not will, though the inaction of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is a lack of will not capability. Kony has a following and a degree of Government protection within the DRC and the country’s civil war with estimates of some 6 million killed simply makes Kony another part of the nation’s woes. It is a tragic part of the world where human life is often cheap. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
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