#StopKony: How is that working in Uganda? UPDATED

UPDATE: This post brought a strong reaction from a couple of readers who believe I am overstating the threat of Kony to Northern Uganda. Indeed, this article at Foreign Policy makes the case that Kony is not in Uganda currently. I am researching this more and will correct anything I have gotten wrong. For now, in addition to Okwonga’s piece, please read Michael Wilkerson’s piece at Foreign Policy.

Apparently, the Invisible Children video is not playing well in Uganda.


If you tweet, you know that Uganda has been trending on Twitter this week. The reason for the interest in Uganda is an effort by The Invisible Children group to make Joseph Kony a household word. The idea being that if he becomes well known, people will push the powers that be to end his reign of terror. Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army has been terrorizing Central Africa for over 20 years, stealing children and making them slaves.

As the knee jerks, some have found fault with the simple effort of the Invisible Children folks to use social media. I don’t have a problem with it, because anything that puts some light on the subject could help. Doesn’t mean it will, but it could help.

One thing that I hope happens is that the world starts asking the leadership of Uganda about their response to the situation. For a response that seeks to expand the interest of observers to Ugandan leaders, I point you to this essay by Musa Okwonga I read yesterday in the UK Independent. Here is his conclusion:

I don’t think that Invisible Children are naïve.  I don’t think that President Obama was ever blind to this matter either: his own father, a Kenyan, hails from the Luo, the same tribal group that has suffered so much at the hands of Kony.  My hunch – and hope – is that they see this campaign as a way to encourage wider and deeper questions about wholly  inadequate governance in this area of Africa.

And as far as President Museveni is concerned, my thoughts are these: if thousands of British children were being kidnapped from their towns each year and recruited into an army, you can bet that David Cameron would be facing some very, very serious questions in the Commons.  You can bet that he would be grilled on why, years after the conflict began, there were still about a million of his citizens slowly dying in squalor in ill-equipped refugee camps.  You can also bet that, after twenty-odd years of this happening on his watch, he wouldn’t still be running the country.


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  • Kristin Rawls

    Hey, so, here are some links. The basics: Kony is not in Uganda and hasn’t been in 6 years. The LRA was completely driven out of Uganda years ago, and is now an issue in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, not Uganda. So, this statement is false: “why are Ugandan leaders bloviating about homosexuality as a threat to children when a real threat to thousands of their children is just to the North?” The LRA is not now – and has not been – a threat to Ugandan children for some time. I agree with your overall point, but there is major misinformation in the IC film, which has been promoting incorrect information about this conflict for some time now. Northern Uganda is not a war zone, and has not been for a long time.



    There is also a really good piece on this at the blog, Acholi St., but it seems to be down at the moment. In any case, this should get you started.

    Kony does need to be stopped, yes, but not in Uganda. In one of the three countries where he is now believed to be. But there are serious questions about the military solutions that IC promotes: Military force against an *army of children* is just one. It’s a complicated issue, and the film fails to make some of the most basic facts clear.

  • Kristin – thanks for the update. I altered my piece a bit to reflect this info. I initially believed Okwonga made a valid observation but need to look into this more, obviously.

  • StraightGrandmother

    I watched the film and what I recall, without going back and looking at it, is that the film said this started in Uganda but Kony has moved out from Uganda, I forget where he is now.

    All that really matters to me is that he is operating somewhere in that area and he is capturing children. It is the children who are our main concern.

    If one little detail has changed since the film was made, or a detail was not 100% correct I don’t think this is a big deal or what we should focus on. The main point is to save the children and get Kony.

    Many thanks for posting this Warren.

  • Kristin Rawls

    StraightGrandmother: It’s not “one little detail.” It’s the most basic facts about the conflict.

    Warren: One thing, Joshua Keating didn’t write the piece at Foreign Policy Magazine. Michael Wilkerson wrote it, and Keating is the staff member who posted it.

  • Anon


    This may be of interest to you – WarChild’s insightful look at InvisibleChildren, the situation with the LRA, and alternative ways to help the people who’ve suffered at the hands of Kony.

  • anteros

    @Kristin Rawls – I was in northern Uganda weeks ago when I heard rumors that Kony and a group of LRA had been seen in Arua and then in Gulu. This is not the first time that Kony has left Uganda and I think it’s a bit unfair to claim that he is no longer a threat to Ugandans if nobody can guarantee that he will never return to Uganda… Kony is bigger than a threat to Ugandan security… he has been, and until he’s been brought to justice, continues to be a threat to the security of four countries in the region.

    Still looking for more criticisms of Invisible Children and the campaign? Here’s one that hasn’t been discussed much:

    they omitted the fact that kony is straight. yeah, the girls being abducted into sexual slavery as wives for kony and his commanders strongly suggests that kony and friends are heterosexuals… but if kony were gay, he’d probably be known as “kony, the homosexual who…”

    they messed it up and didnt get the story right by leaving out that incredibly useful piece of information which is particularly relevant to uganda and it’s fits over homosexuality as if it were the worst thing in the country’s history and the cause of untold suffering in the region. KONY The Heterosexual 2012, is a bit of a mouthful… but brevity isnt an issue since we all wanna hear the whole story after that teaser / trailer raised awareness to amazing peaks in such a short time.

  • anteros

    #StopKony: Uganda Govt reacts to



  • Kristin Rawls

    Was this just a rumor, or is there any proof that this is true? Kony has not been out of Uganda for six years. This is well-established. It is not a matter of debate.

  • Kristin Rawls

    To be clear, not even the Kony 2012 people are saying this is true. They’re presenting just enough information to lead people to believe that it’s true without letting things like facts get in the way. Kony and the LRA are currently problems for the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan. They were expelled from Uganda six years ago, to be clear. It has not been a war zone in some time.

  • Kristin Rawls

    Warren – Again, no one thinks Kony is still in Uganda. The government is right about this, as are HRW, Amnesty and every other major organization that does research in this country. This is the problem with dealing with one issue in a country in isolation (like the Bahati bill) – it’s very easy to miss the rest of the context.

  • Kristin Rawls

    Here’s an article from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/03/09/kony-2012-and-the-potential-of-social-media-activism/a-flawed-call-to-action

    But also, Foreign Policy is one of the most prestigious magazines in the world. They’re not in the business of printing rumor, and Wilkerson is one of the most well-informed reporters on Uganda around.

  • David M.

    Methinks the lady doth protest too much.

  • anteros

    the question isn’t whether or not he is in uganda, or how long he has been out of uganda, or how well his current absence from uganda can be established. the question is, if kony has not been captured all these years, who can claim with absolute certainty that he will never return to uganda? it may or may not have been “just” was a _rumor_ that kony had returned to gulu, but can you imagine what such a rumor does to the thousands who suffered and witnessed the wrath of LRA and lived in camps for years while kids walked to gulu town everyday out of fear? just months ago, a ugandan official was on the evening news justifying increased military expenditure claiming that LRA and ADF were preparing to return to uganda. doesnt matter where he is right now… he’s a ugandan terrorist who has devastated communities in an entire region, there’s an ICC warrant for his arrest, and regarding the relevance of kony’s absence from uganda to the efforts towards catching kony… the ugandan army should have a keen (perhaps the keenest) interest and should play a key role and should seek whatever assistance would help from whoever is offering it… until kony has been brought to justice.

    Just days after KONY 2012 began making Kony famous, Uganda’s daily monitor wrote about Kony’s recent spate of killings and abductions in DRC where Kony has allegedly been hiding… and the fact that the Ugandan army had been asked to leave DRC just before this recent spate began… it doesnt matter where Kony is – what matters is that he is brought to justice… and it doesnt matter who brings kony to justice – as traumatised communities in four countries (whose governments and armies have failed to bring kony to justice) would probably assure you, this is an international issue requiring an international effort.

  • anteros
  • anteros
  • anteros

    take your pick: rumors of kony sneaking back into uganda for his late mother’s funeral rites (coming out of communities that would hate such rumors) or more assuring television and newspaper stories that tell ugandans, “The Defense Minister Dr. Crispus Kiyonga has confirmed reports of a

    possible attack by the Allied Democratic Forces and the LRA based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.” …it really doesn’t matter how long kony has been out of uganda – he must be brought to justice.

  • Anonymous

    For an alternative point of view, check out this link:


  • StraightGrandmother

    Why does the world have to be so complicated? Truth Wins Out put up an article today that says this Invisible Children outfit is funded by gay hating right wing Christians.

    However, according to researcher Bruce Wilson and the charity’s IRS 990 forms, Invisible Children is funded by the U.S.-based National Christian Foundation (NCF), which has also provided significant funds to fanatical groups deeply tied to the persecution of LGBT people in Uganda, including that nation’s infamous “Kill the Gays” bill.

    More at Truth Wins Out.


  • David M.

    The more I read about this issue, the more complicated it seems. There seem to be so many unstated political agendas at work, what seems to be getting lost is that Kany needs to be captured and the children need to be saved. Most of us don’t feel qualified to step into the internal politics of the situation. We want justice for Kany and freedom for the children. Can anybody really argue against those points?

  • Maazi NCO

    Kony and his LRA gangsters have not been in Northern Uganda for a long time. However, the gangsters continue to harass people in Central Africa Republic, South Sudan and DRC. Having said that, there is a strong need to investigate serious cases of human rights abuses perpetrated by UPDF soldiers during the war in the Northern region. I believe that the executive branch of the Ugandan State (with tacit support of the Americans) are trying to sweep the human rights matter under the carpet.

    Oh, by the way, the “Kony 12–Invisible Children” campaign is a piece of propaganda very rich in emotions, falsehoods and half-truths but very poor in facts and reality.

  • Maazi NCO

    “Kony 12–Invisible Children” campaign

    I meant the “# Stop Kony 2012—Invisible Children”

  • Richard Willmer

    @ David M.

    Yes, it is a very complicated issue. Ask people like John Baptist Odama and Norbert Mao! They’ll tell you …

  • Anonymous
  • Richard Willmer

    NTV reports that the video has had negative effects on the tourist industry: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3KTdLjvk9A

    (I’d have thought it would have been too early to tell at this stage, but it is a reminder that we in the West should take care when ‘pronouncing’ on complex issues such as the history of, and situation in, N. UG.

    By contrast, the situation re. the persecution of LGBT Ugandans, and – especially – the US-extremist-inspired* Bahati Bill, is a much more clear-cut one, and thus easier to comment upon.)

    * according to Bahati, that is (and, for once, I think I believe him!)

  • Richard Willmer

    And now it appears that one of IC co-founders has had something of a ‘breakdown’: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/jason-russell-san-diego-invisible-children-kony-2012-142970255.html

    (Engaging with these kinds of issues can be emotionally very draining, I suppose.)

  • Richard Willmer

    @ SGM

    Here’s more on the rumoured link between the IC lot and gay bashers: http://www.talk2action.org/story/2012/3/16/221055/817

  • Richard Willmer

    Another (more positive) Ugandan appraisal of the IC Video: http://www.monitor.co.ug/Magazines/ThoughtIdeas/-/689844/1368306/-/c85w8i/-/index.html

  • Richard Willmer

    The latest Monitor report also contains more positive appraisals of IC’s video: http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/1369072/-/ax98g6z/-/index.html