Few people outside of Africa knew who Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony was before this week. Not anymore. The nonprofit Invisible Children has released a 30-minute video called Kony 2012 that details the atrocities committed by Kony's Lord's Resistance Army, and the footage has gone viral, piling up 39 million views as of Thursday afternoon. (Watch it below.) Over the years, Kony's group has reportedly captured tens of thousands of children and forced them to be soldiers or sex slaves. Can this single video help prevent more violence in remote African villages?
Yes... but acting earlier would have saved more: "No sane person would disagree" that Kony must be brought to justice, says Ishaan Tharoor at TIME. And while this video's success is "an incredible public relations coup" that has brought increased Western scrutiny to the LRA, we shouldn't get carried away. Kony was most dangerous from about 1999 to 2004. Today, his forces have dwindled to about 250 fighters capable of only "disparate attacks" in the Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo. Kony is "a faded warlord on the run." Catching him now will certainly save people — but not as many as you might think.
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And Kony is already being hunted: Kony's name may be new to you, says Ben Arnoldy at The Christian Science Monitor, but President Obama decided last year to dispatch 100 combat-equipped soldiers to help the region's militaries catch the Ugandan warlord. They haven't succeeded yet, and when "the international community has tried to corner Kony before," the LRA launched "devastating reprisal attacks on civilians in Central Africa," and continued "raiding villages to steal food and slaves." But make no mistake: Kony was being hunted long before this video went viral.
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Watch out. This video could spark more conflict: "There is clearly more than Kony at stake here," says Tom Rollins at New Statesman. Central Africa is rich in copper, gold, uranium, and other natural resources. It was "once ravaged by King Leopold II of Belgium," and "the 21st-century American Empire now wants in." Invisible Children is encouraging activists to "directly fund the Ugandan army... which will be led by 'American advisers.'" That's a recipe for even more violence. This video is only meant to give the U.S. an excuse to charge in and pursue its own "hawkish economic and military interests in Africa." That certainly won't save lives.
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Watch the video for yourself: