'Stop Kony' video goes viral, puts spotlight on Ugandan warlord
A screengrab from the Kony 2012 campaign.
March 7th, 2012
04:04 PM ET

'Stop Kony' video goes viral, puts spotlight on Ugandan warlord

A half-hour documentary about a Ugandan warlord is one of the  hottest videos on the Web today, reposted several million times on various social networking sites.

The San Diego-based nonprofit Invisible Children produced the film. Their goal was to make Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, a household name. The LRA is notorious for abducting, raping and maiming its victims. They're particularly infamous for hacking off the ears and lips of their victims and recruiting child soldiers. The LRA's goal is to overthrow the Ugandan government. Kony is on the loose.

By Thursday, a video of the documentary has been viewed on YouTube at least 32 million times. There are countless tweets about it. Even Oprah appears to be a follower. The talk show queen had Invisible Children representatives on her show awhile back. The group tweeted her about the documentary, and she appears to have responded: "Thanks tweeps for sending me info about ending #LRAviolence. I am aware. Have supported with $'s and voice and will not stop. #KONY2012."

But several observers are urging caution, saying that Invisible Children has manipulated facts in the past and advised viewers to watch the documentary with that in mind.

The film follows the alleged former Ugandan child soldier and calls for action against Kony.

In October, President Barack Obama announced that he would send 100 U.S. troops to Africa to help hunt down Kony. International aid convoys and nongovernment organizations operating in the region have been threatened by the Lord's Resistance Army, according to numerous reports. Human Rights Watch, in a letter released in May, urged the U.S. government to step up its effort to protect people from the group.

Noelle Jouglet, Invisible Children's spokeswoman, said the group used "2012" to attract more initial online attention, suspecting people would click on that because there's high interest in the 2012 U.S. presidential election.

Invisible Children's tech-savvy team sent a link to the documentary to groups that have huge fan bases, she said. Group followers shared the link on Facebook, Tmblr and Twitter. The Harry Potter Alliance and the hacker collective Anonymous helped spread the word, she said.

Invisible Children sent Twitter messages about the documentary to 20 celebrities, including Bono, Angelina Jolie, Jay Z, Ryan Seacrest and Rihanna. Many of the tweets about the film appear to be from fans who follow those celebrities.

Jouglet told CNN that any money generated from the film will go to Invisible Children, which builds schools in Uganda. Money will also go to support a high-frequency radio station that Invisible Children operates, which broadcasts anti-LRA messages to fighters urging them to defect. CNN is unable to immediately verify this information or any of Invisible Children's activities in the Congo.

Over the past decade, Invisible Children has been one of the most influential advocacy groups, putting pressure on the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, imploring the U.S. government to take a side in the fight between the LRA and the Ugandan government, according to a November 11, 2011, Foreign Affairs story linked out in a Washington Post story Wednesday.

The Foreign Affairs story says Invisible Children and other advocacy groups "have manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA's use of innocent children as soldiers."

"They rarely refer to the Ugandan atrocities or those of Sudan's People's Liberation Army, such as attacks against civilians or looting of civilian homes and businesses, or the complicated regional politics fueling the conflict."

Jouglet responded to the criticism saying that the group "had" to "simplify" events in the documentary to make it easier for their targeted audience - young people and the wider population - to pay attention and understand.

The group also posted on its Tumblr account an explanation of its mission in Africa, a breakdown of how it spends money and details of its strategy to facilitate the capture of Kony.

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Filed under: Uganda
soundoff (279 Responses)
  1. Rob

    it was my understanding that the LRA is a rebellious Christian army against a totalitarian and rude-less Muslim Government where no one has rights except those in power. It seems to me (right or wrong) that if anything of the bad is true they are fighting a war like they only know how to fight in that part of the world, and eye for and eye.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Wowie

      rude-less? and eye for and eye? I want to take you very seriously...

      March 8, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Cedar Rapids

      Uganda is 84% christian, and the government is christian. In fact the Ugandan president is the guy that supposed had close ties to 'The Fellowship' in the US and were the lot that talked about introducing the death penalty for being gay.

      I am not sure where you got this idea that the government was muslim from.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Wowie

      Cedar Rapids – let's not cloud this discussion with facts, bub...

      March 9, 2012 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  2. latuya83

    I love how everyone here wants us to go in to Africa and hunt this guy down. But we go to Afghanistan and try to help these people and everyone calls us terrorist because guess what innocent people die in wars. If you want us to go into Africa and help these people than you have to agree that the US should be the police of the world.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Darth Cheney

      Of course you wouldn't get it; your post demonstrates that you don't understand the difference between a rogue individual and an abstract concept (terrorism), and how much more simple it is to defeat the former versus the latter.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. John

    If this guy is really so bad, why is he still alive? I am sure that there are some US Special Forces that would love to take him out. Oh, that's right there must not be any oil in Uganda that we want.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Be patient. His days are numbered.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • harold

      this guys been on the run since 2006 . invisble children want ur cash ..........get a clue

      March 8, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Barbx

      Despite what you may think, you cannot simply send US forces into a central/east African country to hunt down an invisible man. Outside of the logistical issues, the diplomatic faux – pas would be catastrophic. There are a lot of political factors here which make such an act impossible.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Ryan

      They want money yea, in order to advertise. This is a people's mission. If the citizens dont back it up, congress witl cut funding. Not all organizations are like Kars 4 kids.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      This man is alive because he has no value to Americans. Africa has no oil or resource for our gain, so of course we won't do anything. Look at Darfur, we haven't done anything but send Sally Struthers to steal food and make crappy TV commercials.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
    • mark

      be patient
      we all will die eventually
      why spend unnecessary money on it?

      March 8, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
    • rlmoore

      Yes he has been on the loose since 2006. And Invisible Children has been working to stop him for the past nine years. This is not just some viral video that will go away in a couple days. This is an organization trying to put an end to injustice. No they will not bring peace to Africa. But if their efforts result in the capture of Joseph Kony, then children in Uganda and Congo will be able to sleep a little easier in their beds at night without fear of being captured. I've been a supporter of IC for seven years and am so happy that they are starting to get some serious attention!

      March 8, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Keith

      Kony is still alive b/c he hides in the jungle.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse |
    • DrDanno

      Rush Limbaugh is still alive. Andrew Britebart is .... oh, wait. Never mind.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Devin Field

      Actually, just prior to Obama's decision to send troops to Uganda, oil WAS discovered, and it was projected that the country hopes to pull in a couple billion every year once they get their exports set up.

      Anyone that says that Africa doesn't have abundant resources is a moron.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  4. FritzNH

    Wonderfully presented. It brings a tear to my eye when we, as parents, are forced to explain the unexplainable to our children. Well done!

    March 8, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |

    We all have the right to speak our minds and i think it's very crucial and also that's what makes us Americans. However, we need to take a step back regardless of which side we might be on and realize that human lives are at stake weather or not "facts are manipulated" to get this story out to the public. The least we could offer is to understand that injustice "there" could be injustice "everywhere"!

    March 8, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Devin Field

      You're right about that last part, but it's not a "What if." There is plenty of injustice within our own government and tons of innocent blood on our hands. Maybe Invisible Children should make a campaign against the war-atrocities this current administration has catered to.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. Creamy Tomato Soup

    But Rush Limbaugh told us they were good Christians that Obama wanted to murder.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  7. Sue Tervonen

    Here is the Invisible Children Organization response to the critics: http://s3.amazonaws.com/www.invisiblechildren.com/critiques.html

    March 8, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  8. Aaron

    When President Obama sent a small troop to Africa to find this guy, Rush Limbaugh said in his radio show, Obama is persecuting Christians (Lords Resistance Army) in Africa.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Fed

      Rush Limbaugh is the worlds top notch Dbag.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      Kony's no Christian. He may play the role, but his actions speak nothing of any sort of morality or higher purpose.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:13 am | Report abuse |
    • sir dude

      Why would anything that fat slob Limbaaah says be taken seriously anyways.
      He is all done even his own kind are ill from his gas.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
  9. Andrea M

    Question: Can you find Uganda on a map? Hell, I'm a geography nerd, and even I can't find it. This is because Africa for the most part is a lion filled hell hole where the borders change every 5 minutes and there's no use bothering to learn it. Invisible Children just helps fund the Ugandan govt. army, who are not exactly angels. Africa will never be fixed short of re-colonization which isn't an option. If you want to try to fix Africa though, give to charities that bring education, clean water, and health services. Only once those problems are solved can Africa move on.

    March 8, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Barbx

      So... you're saying what is probably the main the root cause of all of this variable borders, shadow states, and civil war... is the solution? Doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Then again you have to understand history and world events first so I don't fault you.

      March 8, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Barbx

      Also, how can you not find Uganda on a map? Its pretty easy

      March 8, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • ThoughtProcess

      I have spent many months in Uganda and Sudan. Your statements are based on cursory internet reading at best. From where you sit, its probably easy to shrug your shoulders and walk away in ignorance but for the regular people going about their lives like normal people do in that area, this is a real problem and needs a solution immediately. Just to say "its like that over there, nothing you can do" doesn't help innocent kids who didn't choose this.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
    • The REAL Truth...

      @Andrea – can't find Uganda on a map? How hard is that? CLUE: It's a little further east of Cincinnati than Parkersburg.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • mcp123

      "geography nerd"

      Ummm...ever heard of this thing called google maps? I mean you do have the internet don't you? Type UGANDA into their search.


      March 8, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Barbx

      Made Andrea think twice before opening her mouth now haven't we.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  10. nbenz

    I love how after one video everyone is all of a sudden an armchair activist. What about Darfur?

    March 8, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  11. John

    Why the US? Why do we have to play international police? Why not France, England, Chile, Israel, China, or any other country? I'm not saying not to help them, but why does it has to be with at the taxpayer expense?

    March 8, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  12. Greenspam

    Can't watch this crap. Stopped after 15 seconds. Too much hollywood.

    March 8, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • mark


      March 8, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • nutz

      Totally agreed. Overproduced tripe to elicit emotion. Wayy too much fluff. It's not that I don't care. I don't have time for fluff.

      March 8, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  13. matt

    only 31% of what you donate to them actually goes to their cause. the rest of the millions are to their film budget so they can TRULY be hipsters and to their flights to Africa and to their pockets. they also support other rebels. people who kill should not be supported

    March 8, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • m1sterlurk

      31% is still a higher margin than United Way (which is under 10%).

      March 8, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  14. mark

    hey support the Ugandan rebel army who also kill other people. always check with the better business bureau before you donate to see where the money u donate is REALLY going to. if only 31% of their money is going to the cause, why would i donate to them just so they can get rich off of other peoples troubles

    March 8, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  15. Walter

    Geography, fluff, tax dollars...whatever. You choose to support it or you don't. It's true, there are several causes worth fighting for. As far as the reason behind the mission, it's highly possible this guy (and this group) actually want to help. I knew a guy that was always fighting for some cause and when asked "why?" he said "why wouldn't I?"

    March 8, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
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