Today I showed our Ugandan partners ‘Kony 2012′. For any who don’t know, ‘Kony 2012′ is a 30-minute film by Invisible Children that became the most viral video of all time, getting over 100 million views in about one week. It aims to rally US support to stop Joseph Kony, the leader of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army that terrorized Uganda for two decades, and continues to terrorize three central African countries.
I wanted them to see the film because it impacts them more than it does me, and so their thoughts on the subject are valuable and can help guide my own.
During the 30-minute runtime their eyes were glued to the screen of my laptop. I have never seen them so attentive. At times they would whisper recognitions and explanations to each other. When Kony or LRA victims were shown they would often sound the unique tsk-tsk-tsk of Acholi displeasure.
When the film ended I asked them for their thoughts.
It was clear that the wounds of two decades of violence are still very tender. Women immediately started sharing stories of their own families – children lost to abductions, siblings lost to violence.
And this led to their first reaction to the film and its plan: it comes twenty years too late for Uganda. You can imagine the sting. America, the world’s great super power, finally awakens to your two decades of terror and loss, only after those decades are over, only after you have started the long, slow, painful work of healing and rebuilding. And finally now they want to stop Kony.
But beyond that reaction they saw that stopping Kony will save hundreds of thousands Congolese, Central African Republicers, and South Sudanese from the sort of pain that they and their families have been through.
The Ugandan government failed to stop Kony, they said. Indeed, it seemed unconcerned with stopping him. The local peace processes failed to bring an end to the violence. The only hope, they believe, is American support and military action. And at least one of them would rather Kony be killed on the spot than given the dignity of a trial.
But whether captured or killed, if Kony was stopped in 2012, they all agreed that there would be a deep collective sense of relief in northern Uganda. They still fear him. They are scared to this day that he and his terrorizing forces will return to Uganda. If Kony is stopped, they told me, all of northern Uganda will celebrate.