'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. Zebon

    In as much as I fee sympathy for those suffering in Africa, I think our aid dollars are better spent right here in the good old US of A where we have a shocking number of children who will go to bed tonight hungry. Just sayin is all... think about that for a minute.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Touie

    Just kill the people involved and be done with them! Justice will not do anything but drag out time and money to whom ever.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      Justice, like most things we cherish most, is rarely convenient.

      March 8, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. WhiteSaladin

    Is that a drone I hear?

    March 8, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mariahcook

    The more we can identify people like Kony the better. When they are kept invisible, they have more power. Exposure is fantastic. Invisible Children is in process of building radio towers along central Africa so that people can radio in attacks and warn other cities of movement. No doubt that there are other problems everywhere in the world, but it is great to see a group choosing something to stand for for over 10 years.

    March 8, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  5. hmm

    I am sure Kony is a horrible person. But there is something about the man making this video that I do not trust.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • jack

      He thought of it before you?

      March 8, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • dpcfoh

      Yeah, and especially his son seemed kind of shady... (sarcasm alert)

      March 8, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Invisible Children has an overhead of 65%. That is ridiculous. A good charity should have an overhead of 20% or less. Also, Invisible children was rated a low 2 stars for transparency because they refuse to let an independent company audit their charity. This is standard fair for any mainstream and responsible charity.

      March 8, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Elizabeth

    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."

    Right – because if only SOME chilrend are being abducted and forced to murder their own families – that's ok.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. rh

    It's all the Republicans' fault, no one cares about their candidates and everyone expects Obama to win, so people get distracted by storytelling and finger-pointing resulting in money for the "non-profit" employees.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Fletch

    I was a Ranger back in the 90's and we begged Clinton to send us back to Somolia and then to Rwanda. Our government is not going to get serious and do what REALLY needs to be done because it is ugly and thay are scared for their own jobs. Face it, ALL the politicians are rich (not just republicans) and only care about their selves. And a lot of the liberals actually think that building a school and digging a well and arresting bad people is going to change the world. We, good people with good hearts and big guns are the real answer. We have to go in and eliminate the leadership and upper tier of these groups with mailce and violence. Arrest them and someone else just steps up. Kill enough of them and the lower ranks can be dealt with and returned to a life of decency.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. ugandan-american chick

    I can say in all honesty and truth, without watching this video ( I lived in Kampala, the capital of uganda for more than 8 years and spend months out of the year) that Kony is pure evil. People like him deserve the ultimate and most extreme punishment possible for the innocence and fear he's cause over northern ugand and south sudan. The fact of the matter is the ugandan government headed by Dictator Yoweri Museveni (he doesn't deserve to be called a president) for more than 15 years ALLOWS him to continue his torture and destruction because its good economics for them. Countries like the US donate troops and funding for his "capture" but this money just like tax-payers' money, other foreign aid, and state funds go directly into the government's top official's politics.

    Anyone truely interested in this casue and that of other thousands of people mistreated, displaced and forced into labor in Uganda (top officials are known for using people pushed off their land and prisoners as personal laborers) should take a nice big look the current government and the human/cultural destruction it causes and allows to happen.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Curtis

    Kony for President!!

    Wait, what?

    March 8, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Eric

    Big Picture. Kony is Christian. Kony is defending from North Africa's Muslim invaders. This is nothing new, and has been happening for about a thousand years. Ask yourself what is worse, forcing your children from young age to fight a repressive religion, or waiting for Muslim to force Sharia Law on you, and if you refuse, watch your family get burned to death or stoned. People should really look at the atrocities of what present day Muslims are doing to Chrisitians over there. No one is stopping this, other that one person who will fight fire with fire. Kony. Yes he is a terrible person, but North Africa is even worse. They do the same thing.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      In no way, shape, or form, can Joseph Kony be considered Christian. And if he is fighting back against Islam, then he is remarkably indifferent to the religion of his victims. Finally, it's terribly hipocritical to justify acts of violence and terror by claiming that others are just as bad.

      March 8, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Biff Smiff

    So April 20th is Cover the Night / pollute the crap out of our cities night? Brilliant.

    March 8, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reallyrob

      Who cleans up the mess????? Not cool.

      March 8, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Reason

    We need to worry about OUR country first. The US does not need to play fix the world anymore. Everybody claims China and India are superpowers, let them go have their miltary people killed. We played this game already, go see Black Hawk down and that will explain how this ends. Other countries don't want us there so why should we go? Kony will just be replaced by someone else...

    March 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Reallyrob

    By IC’s own admission, only 31% of all the funds they receive go toward actually helping anyone [pdf]. The rest go to line the pockets of the three people in charge of the organization, to pay for their travel expenses (over $1 million in the last year alone) and to fund their filmmaking business (also over a million) — which is quite an effective way to make more money, as clearly illustrated by the fact that so many can’t seem to stop forwarding their well-engineered emotional blackmail to everyone they’ve ever known. -something to consider

    March 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reallyrob

      Myopically placing the blame for all of central Africa’s woes on Kony — even as a starting point — will only imperil many more people than are already in danger.
      Let’s not get our lines crossed: The Lord’s Resistance Army is bad news. And Joseph Kony is a very bad man, and needs to be stopped. But propping up Uganda’s decades-old dictatorship and its military arm, which has been accused by the UN of committing unspeakable atrocities and itself facilitated the recruitment of child soldiers, is not the way to go about it.
      Sending money to a nonprofit that wants to muck things up by dousing the flames with fuel is not helping. Want to help? Really want to help? Send your money to nonprofits that are putting more than 31% toward rebuilding the region’s medical and educational infrastructure, so that former child soldiers have something worth coming home to.

      March 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Thinker

    Bring Koni to US. I am sure he will become the top choice for a presidential candidate

    March 8, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
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