Friday, March 9, 2012

Invisible Children: Who is Joseph Kony?

By now, you've probably seen the Youtube video tagged Kony2012, or at least seen the #StopKony hastags on Twitter and links on Facebook posts.

A non-profit group called Invisible Children created the video about the Ugandan warlord. Overnight, it has turned Joseph Kony into a househould name in the United States, and raised concerns about his actions in Uganda. It has also raised questions about the non-profit group promoting the video. But according to there is now a backlash to that backlash.

But who exactly is Joseph Kony?

Born in Uganda, Kony is the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army. For years, the rebel group kidnapped children in northern Uganda, using the boys as fighters for his movement and raping the girls.

It's estimated he's abducted 66,000 children and killed tens of thousands; often families of the kidnapped children.

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Since he was indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2005 on 33 charges including murder, enslavement, rape, pillaging, and forced fighting, he has left Uganda for the bush; his whereabouts are unknown. The LRA now operates in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, and may now number in the hundreds.

"Kony is a monster. He deserves to be prosecuted and hanged," Col. Felix Kulayigye, the spokesman for Uganda's military, told The Associated Press.

After the indictments, Kony came out of hiding, apparently to participate in a peace deal. But he backed out in 2008.

The L.R.A. is an off-shoot of a rebel group led by Alice Lakwena, who said spirits possessed her and led her to war, according to the New York Times. When Kony took over, he said he was the spirits' new channel.

Abductees who have escaped have said that Kony told them his battle instructions came from the Holy Spirit, according to the BBC. He's believed to have at least 60 wives.

The U.S. has worked with Ugandan and central African regional troops to divert the L.R.A. Those efforts probably helped scatter the group across central Africa.

Jolly Okot, the current Uganda country director for Invisible Children, was abducted in 1986 by the group that became the LRA when she was 18, and forced into sex.

The video highlights a former child soldier named Jacob, calling for action against the atrocities.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Analysis by Sheila Eldred