KONY supporters still hope to ‘Cover the Night’
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 14:04
In March, the 30-minute video KONY 2012 was released online, exposing one of the world’s worst war criminals — Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony — and the atrocities he has committed against the Ugandan people.
Invisible Children, a non-profit organization formed in 2005, produced the video in an attempt to shine a spotlight on Kony’s crimes and make him as famous as celebrities like George Clooney. It also rallied support for a national “Cover the Night” event on April 20.
Organizers had no idea the video would go viral overnight.
“We were certainly hoping for it to be huge, but our goal for the year was 500,000 views,” Invisible Children Austin street team member Cassidy Myers said. “We were at 90 million … a week after it was released.”
While most of the initial reaction to the video was positive, there was also criticism about how the organization distributes its funds. Then the mission was clouded further when founder Jason Russell was videotaped outside his home having an apparent breakdown. He was walking down the sidewalk naked, slapping the ground and yelling at passing vehicles. He was picked up by police and was taken to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation.
To counter the controversy, Invisible Children released another video last week, encouraging supporters to attend the Cover the Night event. The plan is for supporters to gather in areas throughout the country and cover the streets with KONY 2012 posters and stickers in an effort to attract the attention of people who don’t know about the movement. Dallas supporters will meet up in the downtown area at midnight.
Myers is hopeful that the original message won’t get lost.
According to Invisible Children, Kony has abducted approximately 30,000 Ugandan children from their homes over the past 29 years. They are forced to brutally kill their families, then they are turned into soldiers and sex slaves.
In 2003 Russell traveled to the Central African country to film a documentary. While he was there, he discovered hundreds of children sleeping side-by-side in schools and churches to avoid being captured by Kony.
He also met a young boy named Jacob who told him that he escaped being a child soldier by leaving home along with other children. However, he said his brother was killed by Kony. At that point, Russell promised he would do everything he could to stop the LRA and bring justice to its victims.
Seeing Jacob’s story made a significant impact on Eastfield student Astrid Nunez.
“We have all these things here in the USA and it all gets taken for granted,” she said. “Those kids go to sleep and wake up every single day fearing for their lives. It’s inhumane.”
Invisible Children has been working since 2005 to gain supporters by traveling to colleges, high schools, churches and other venues. Young people have been especially influential in the spread of the movement.
Invisible Children has installed 26 radio towers around Central Africa where residents can report live coverage about the LRA’s movement.
According to Myers, Kony learned that U.S. forces were looking for him because of the towers, so he has been moving throughout the jungle to avoid capture.
“Messages are being sent to the LRA fighters directly, telling them to come out, to turn themselves in,” Myers said. “We know they’ve been forced to do this against their will.”
Since Kony is operating in such a remote part of the world, it has been difficult to capture him. The jungle makes it hard for soldiers to get around and stay in contact with one another with no service in an area the size of California.
In the video, Russell says this has to be the year Kony is captured.
Although U.S. troops have been helping track Kony, organizers are aware that President Barack Obama can’t keep the troops there indefinitely. If things do not progress, he will pull them out.
However, there are signs of progress.
“Their forces are estimated to be 250 members in the LRA right now, which is the smallest amount that it’s been in the past 15 years,” Myers said.
Another challenge for Invisible Children is overcoming the negative publicity that followed the first video. According to the Invisible Children website, only 32 percent of funding goes directly to the children. The rest goes to designers, filming, traveling and paying employees.
Developmental math professor Buddy Saucedo said he planned to jump on the bandwagon after watching the video, but he changed his mind after doing further research.
“It was a touching story,” he said. “After the ending I went to the website and I whipped out my wallet and almost bought the kit. Then I said, ‘Hold on a second. How do I know this is true? Not everything you see on the internet is true,’ but I kind of believe it. Instead of paying, I just chose to spread the news to my students.”