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The Kony 2012 Controversy Essay

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Updated: Nov 26th, 2019


The film “Kony 2012”, a 28-minute film by the ‘Invisible Children’ was created to promote the movement ‘Stop Kony’ with an aim of creating awareness of the plight of children in Northern Uganda, southern Sudan and Central Africa (Pallota 1). This is the region where the African fugitive Joseph Kony and his militia have been operating and executing inhuman activities against children and women (Curtis 1).

The non-government organization ‘Invisible Children’ seeks to make Kony, who is also wanted at the International Criminal Court, globally known in order to facilitate his due arrests and trial (Pallota 1). Although it was short, the film went viral, becoming one of the most viewed videos on YouTube by the end of the year 2012. However, the film and the campaign in general have attracted criticism and controversy that is still a topic of debate.

The film attempts to attract the world attention to view the inability of the leaders in the western world as being the major factor that has resulted in the inability to stop Kony and his militia in the region. Although it is a short clip, the film has made remarkable steps towards ending Kony’s evils in central Africa (Pallota 1).

However, it is worth arguing that the film is misguided because it attempts to prove right that the political leadership in America and other nations in the western world have failed to contain Kony and his militia rather than accusing African leaders and the African union of failure to contain such a small militia.

The film and the controversy: Why should it focus on USA?

The Invisible Children’s campaign was successful, especially after it reached the United States Senate, finally contributing a lot to president Obama’s decision to send American troops to work with African union troops in hunt of Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army in this region of Africa (Pallota 1). However, the film has created a major controversy due to its slick Hollywood values of production and its funding.

For instance, critics have argued that the Invisible Children and its campaign “Stop Kony” believes that political leadership in America has the largest responsibility to contain Joseph Kony and his gang from extending their inhuman actions in the region (Curtis 1). The film tends to make the audience believe that the failure by the united states and other nations in the western world have either ignored the plight of children and women in Africa or are not willing to be involved in protecting the rights of children in Africa (Pallota 1).

There is a controversy over the film’s intention to attack the United States in particular by making the viewers believe that America has what it takes to contain such a small rebellion, yet its leaders have taken a little time to think about the plight of children in the region (Curtis 1). The question here is “why not criticize the government of Uganda?”

It is worth noting that the Lord’s Resistance Army, the rebel movement led by Joseph Kony, was founded in northern and eastern parts of Uganda sometimes in late 1980s (Atkinson, Lancaster, Cakaj and Lacaille 372). The initial claim was that successful Ugandan regimes had been alienating, mistreating some communities in the Northern parts of the country both socio-politically, and economically (Green 26).

The movement was seeking to liberate the region and deliver justice to the northern tribes. As the name “Lord” indicates, the movement was founded with claims that it had the blessings and the will of God (Briggs 42). However, its actions prove otherwise. Since late 1980s, the Lord’s Resistance Army of Joseph Kony has been abducting children and forcing them to serve as porters and members of the rebel group.

As the film “Kony 2012” suggests, the rebel group is believed to have abducted more than 60,000 children from various communities in south Sudan, northern Uganda, the Congo and Central African Republic (Atkinson, Lancaster, Cakaj and Lacaille 373). In addition, the group has been abducting a large number of female children and women to act as sex slaves for the soldiers, who are later killed after their ability to provide sexual services are exhausted (Green 31). Kony has therefore remained at large.

From the background of the movement and its actions, it is clear that the United States of America and her western allies have less significant role to play in a hunt and capture of Joseph Kony. The Film “Kony 2012” has actually misguided the audience because the facts are right- African leaders have the biggest responsibility in all attempts to contain Kony and his men.

For instance, the government of Uganda was successful in driving Kony out of Ugandan boundaries with little assistance from America and her allies. However, once Kony and his group were out of the country, Ugandan government did little efforts to pursuer the criminals, despite being aware of his inhuman actions (Briggs 49). Therefore, if Ugandan government was able to drive the force out of the country, why does it fail to mobilize regional leaders to cooperate and contain Kony and his men? The film has failed to focus on this issue.

Secondly, by attacking the United States in the Kony 2012, the film makes have misled the viewers and the public in general because they have attempted to make the world believe that the rebellion is a world affair, just like international terrorism, which American must mobilize its forces to contain.

In fact, this is a false opinion made by Invisible Children because recent statistics indicate that the number of children under Kony’s slave force is less than 10,000, with some critics indicating that the 60,000 children believed to have been abducted accounts for all the children the force has been using for nearly 30 years of its existence. In addition, rough statistics given by people who escape from Kony’s forces have shown that the Lord’s Resistance Army has been reduced from a military organization to a mere group of criminals seeking to survive by attacking villages for food and clothing (Briggs 47).

In addition, it has reduced in numbers and influence in the region, which means that the large number of children the film ‘Kony 2012’ attempts to indicate could be false. Moreover, these statistics indicate that African regimes in the affected nations are reluctant to wipe out such a small rebellion, probably because they do not care the plight of the innocent lives hunted, mistreated and killed by Kony and his group.

Thirdly, it is worth noting that the film does not take into consideration the groups that have been involved in the Kony-led rebellion over the years. There is evidence that minerals in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been one of the major causes of the survival of Kony and his rebel group in the region.

There is some evidence that Kony has been targeting and controlling some significant volume of trade in gold, diamond and other minerals in the region, which has been providing the group with economic support to survive in the bushes (Briggs 72). It is believed that Kony has been selling these minerals to various groups of corrupt individuals, some of them being government and political officials in some countries like Uganda, Congo, Sudan and Central African Republic (Briggs 66).

In exchange, Kony gets ammunition, clothing and other supplies to keep his men going. Evidence has shown that were it not for this illegal and dirt trade, Kony and his men would not have survived the harsh conditions of the forests (Atkinson, Lancaster, Cakaj and Lacaille 374). In addition, the possible connections between Kony’s group and the corrupt officials in regional government explain why it has been difficult for the affected nations to mobilize a strong force to capture Joseph Kony and his rebel group.

It is possible that some government officials who benefit from Kony’s dirty minerals have been derailing and delaying any efforts to mobilize governments to send troops in pursuit of the fugitives (Green 73). Nevertheless, the film has done a little to address these issues or to make the viewers get the facts right, but rather focused on attacking the political leadership in the United States as if the Kony rebellion is championed by the US.

It is also important to refer to the wider scale of the rebellion in the central African region. While it is quite true to argue that the rebellion and atrocities caused by Kony is an African welfare, there are some evidences that some nations in the eastern block have been benefiting from Kony’s rule in the jungle. For instance, there are some claims that Kony and his group have been dealing with ivory and other game products, most of which are exported to China and Thailand (Atkinson, Lancaster, Cakaj and Lacaille 375).

The claims could be true because Kony and his men have always resided in the jungle, where their main source of food is the wild animals. Elephants and rhinos are plenty in the region, and some claims have shown that they have been exporting some significant volumes of tusks and ivory to China, Thailand and other nations though their allies in the political class in the surroundings nations. In fact, the role of China on the wide scale of the rebellion is doubtable.

There have been other claims that Kony obtains ammunition from these nations through his allies in Kampala, Kinshasa and perhaps Nairobi (Atkinson, Lancaster, Cakaj and Lacaille 376). Despite these claims having been a part of the Kony controversy over the last 30 years, the film “Kony 2012” made little efforts, if any, to describe the large-scale aspects of the film. It does not attack the inability of the regional governments to cooperate in eliminating the atrocities caused by Kony’s group.

It also does not focus on the international involvement of other parties such as Chinese ivory traders in east Africa and their roles in the rebellion (Atkinson, Lancaster, Cakaj and Lacaille 376). Instead, it attempts to accuse the united states of failing to act, despite the fact that there are several other parties involved in the rebellion.

Finally, it is worth noting that the film ‘Kony 2012’ does not seem to note the fact that the international and regional community have also failed to act. First, Uganda is a part of the well-organized regional organizations such as the east African community and the African Union.

Secondly, the African Union, a large organization with more then 50 member states, has done a little to contain such a small rebellion for nearly 30 years (Atkinson, Lancaster, Cakaj and Lacaille 376). Yet, the African union has been successful in other regions such as its recent involvement in establishing a legitimate government in Somalia and marinating peace in that country, which has been under extreme for more than 20 years. The film does not consider such issues and facts.

Critics have further argued that the intention of making the film is questionable because it appears that Invisible Children Inc was more interested in getting funds from the well wishers by attacking the political leadership in the united states rather then digging for the facts.

Some critics have argued that by attacking the United States, the Invisible Children was expecting to get more media attention than it could have if it focused on criticizing regimes in east and central Africa. In addition, critics have argued that by attacking the United States, Invisible Children Inc was placing itself at a better position to increase its funding.


From this review, it is worth noting that the Invisible Children has purposely criticized the political leadership in America rather then attacking the actual parties relevant to the Kony controversy. First, it is clear that the Ugandan government is the initial party that should have made the most significant efforts to contain Kony. Secondly, regional governments as well as the African Union ought to have made remarkable initiatives before involving the international community.

Works Cited

Atkinson, Ronald, Philip Lancaster, Ledio Cakaj and Guilaume Lacaille. “Do no harm: Assessing a military approach to the Lord’s Resistance Army”. Journal of Eastern African Studies, 6.2 (2012): 371-382. Print.

Briggs, Jimmie.The Innocents Lost: When Child soldiers Go to War. London, Basic Books, 2005. Print.

Curtis, Polly and Tom McCarthy. “Kony 2012: what’s the real story?” The Guardian, March 8. 2012, Web. <>

Green, Matthew. The Wizard of the Nile: The Hunt for Africa’s Most Wanted. New York: Portobello Books, 2008. Print.

Pallota, Dan. The Kony 2012 controversy”. Harvard business review. March 13. 2013, Web. <>

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