08 March 2012

Kony 2012

In three years, Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army has killed 2,400 civilians, abducted 3,400 and displaced 440,000. Over the course of his life, Kony has used 30,000 child soldiers. He is the number one most wanted by the International Criminal Court. Invisible Children (IC) created a video about him that's going viral.

Kony and his army originated in northern Uganda, but have since fled to the DRC, south Sudan, and the Central African Republic. In October, President Obama authorized the deployment of 100 military advisers to assist the Ugandan army (UPDF). These advisers are not to participate in combat - but neither were the advisers who helped kill Pablo Escobar.

Which leads me to my first question: If Kony isn't in Uganda, why should we support Uganda in arresting him? Invisible Children states that the UPDF is the most effective local force in the region, and the U.S. is trying to encourage cooperation between affected countries. It appears there was cooperation between the U.S., the DRC, and Uganda in 2008, for the failed Operation Lightning Thunder. The U.S. helped plan the mission, but had no forces actively involved - likely in accordance with guidance from Washington. The UPDF lacked training, and in some cases ignored U.S. advice. But the UPDF is probably still the best option - maybe with increasingly active support from U.S. forces.

What can we do to get them that support? Invisible Children's strategy is to raise awareness and put pressure on policymakers. In FY 2011, 44% of their expenses went towards raising awareness, with 37% going to programs in central Africa, 16% to administration, and 3% to fundraising. Will IC's strategy work? It could - and I don't see another option One of my Facebook friends suggested setting up a fund for a Private Military Contractor to go after him, which could lead to a lot of nasty issues. Of course, the UPDF has had some nasty issues, too, which IC admits to. Maybe U.S. advisors could help change UPDF's track record with respect to human rights violations. In any case, IC gives no money to the UPDF or the Ugandan government.

What should we do? First, understand this is a complex issue. Taking out Kony - whether with a bullet or a pair of handcuffs - won't end Africa's problems. Kony isn't in Uganda, and he will be hard to find, just like Pablo Escobar was. But Pablo had a direct effect on American interests. Kony doesn't. IC and the U.S. involvement have received a lot of criticism, which we should study. And think about it. And check out IC's response.

Kony doesn't affect the U.S. But he does affect the world, and he's currently affecting the 440,000 refugees he's forced to flee their homes. Should we blow him up with a missile fired by an RPA pilot sitting outside Las Vegas? Probably not.

But we should know. We should care. We should help arrest Kony. Not because of a poster, not because of a video, but because we care enough to know the consequences - good and bad - of our actions. And in this case, the good outweighs the bad.