In 2012, Invisible Children’s ‘Stop Kony’ campaign went viral. You liked the Facebook page, tweeted about it and contributed to the 100 million YouTube views – but what actually went on beyond the hashtag? Since watching Machine Gun Preacher (a great film, but like its story, it sadly went unnoticed by the public), I’ve been glued to this issue, and I’m shocked that it’s been overlooked for nearly three decades.
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is a rebel militia with a corrupt religious ideology, and operates mainly in South Sudan, Uganda, Central Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This is the longest running armed conflict Africa has ever seen. The LRA partook in both the first and second Sudanese Civil Wars, causing extensive Human Rights violations, including murder, sexual enslavement, abduction and – most prominently – the enforcement of over 30,000 child soldiers.
The movement of the LRA can be tracked back to a woman called Alice Lakwena. Originally known as the Holy Spirit Movement, Lakwena created the group after declaring that the Holy Spirit told her she must overthrow the government. She was eventually exiled for her rebel actions, and Joseph Kony – claiming to be her cousin – took over her concept and followers, and transformed the movement into the LRA. Kony’s reformed army didn’t gain as much support as Lakwena’s former establishment, and it’s therefore estimated that – due to understandable the lack of voluntary followers – 90% of the LRA’s troops were abducted and enforced as children.
For nearly 30 years, northern Uganda has endured the war between the LRA and its Government. It has resulted in the death and injury of nearly two million innocent civilians, and has now been called ‘the most neglected humanitarian emergency in the world today’, robbing peace from the lives of so many.
Invisible Children is the charity that launched the Stop Kony campaign in 2012. Two years on, they are still working to track the LRA and show the world exactly what has happened and is happening in Africa. But with the news and media’s focus on the warfare of the Middle East, the LRA is escaping the attention of the public. Every day there are new victims forcibly recruited in the Lord’s Resistance Army – but hopefully not for much longer. In March, President Obama ordered a military Osprey aircraft to join the search for Kony, and in May the United Nations reported that Kony and his supporters are believed to be hiding out in a Sudanese jungle region, stating that the Warlord’s capture was thought to be ‘coming pretty soon’.
The year 2012 saw the cyber generation amass online to show our support and recognition for this issue…and then we forgot about it. So as Kony continues to terrify Africa, and we have been diverted into new news and new hashtags, it’s important to remember that this war – this black hole of human rights – needs to be vocalised and brought to end.