Be it the Egyptian uprising or even Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption protest, online social networks have played an important role in creating awareness for socio-political movements by mobilising citizens, influencing public opinion to spur political change.
And now, a 30-minute documentary on Joseph Kony, a Ugandan warlord accused of exploiting children, has become a viral hit in the last three days with over 26 million+ hits on YouTube.
The film produced by American advocacy group and non-profit Invisible Children has been created to ‘raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice’.
The film tells the story of Kony, a jungle militia leader who is wanted for human-right atrocities by the International Criminal Court and is being hunted by 100 US Special Forces operators in four Central African countries.
It highlights the formation of his rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army and atrocities that include killing and mutilating thousands of people, turning young boys into soldiers and forcing girls to become sex slaves. It asks people to donate to the movement and Make Kony Famous.
The group’s website reads, “If the world knows who Joseph Kony is, it will unite to stop him. It starts here”.
Already, the #Kony2012 hashtag has been trending worldwide on Twitter and received more support after international celebrities like Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian posted about the movement online.
In India, Kony was trending on Thursday with users posting links to the YouTube film on Twitter and Facebook.
“Videos like this make you realize what a cushioned life all of us lead. How ignorant we are and unfortunately, also quite helpless in matters that need much more importance than the trivial things we focus on. If creating awareness is a small way in which we can help, then that’s what we should do. Don’t ignore this video,” user Manjari Verma Mathew posted on Facebook.
On YouTube, the video has received 2,90,516 comments, some sympathetic others cynical of online slactivisim.
“Just clicking ‘Like’ isn’t going to change anything. How many of you can point out where Uganda is on the map?” asked one user.
The group that claims to be working for 9 years to end Africa’s longest-running armed conflict wants Kony to be arrested and his rebel group to be disarmed.
Another set of blogs that raise questions about the charity and its movement are also doing the rounds. A Tumblr blog called Visible Children – Kony2012 Criticism, written by a Canadian political science student is the strongest counter point. It claims that Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006. The blog also raises concerns about the group’s fund-raising activities that pointing out “only 32 per cent” of monies “went to direct services, with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production”.
It also has the photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with guns and members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, who are also riddled with accusations of rape and looting.
“At present, Kony is in a forest in Congo, weak and dying. Don’t fall for #kony2012 without knowing all the facts,” tweeted Delhi-based user, Kaveri Ahuja.
Here’s a video by an Ugandan in reponse to the campaign.