By April Filips, Contributor
A screening of the non-profit film KONY 2012 was open to UNO students on Monday, April 2, in the Milo Bail Student Center to raise awareness of the upcoming “Cover the Campus” campaign.
A student group will be handing out flyers this Thursday from 12:00-2:00 in the Pep Bowl, encouraging fellow UNO students to “Cover the Campus” with posters, chalk writing, vehicle signage and other media based campaign pieces.
Invisible Children Inc., the non-profit organization behind the campaign, exists to raise awareness about children who have been abducted and forced to fight as soldiers in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) under the leadership of Joseph Kony. At this time there is little known with certainty concerning Kony or his whereabouts.
The popularity of the media-based campaign surged out of the gates when it went viral and hit 70 million views on the fifth day of its release.
The campaign has not only caught on with a passionate response in social media, but has also been met with much criticism and global reaction.
Invisible Children Inc. was caught off guard by success as well as criticism after moving from a tour format to the online release of its Kony 2012 Video.
“When we released the video online… It was this crazy tipping point,” the company’s CEO Ben Keesey said.
With the floodgates opened, criticism has been directed at the organization’s tactics, finances, fact manipulation, accountability and transparency. Some critics took issue in the filmmakers focus on their personal lives and yet still others contended, the approach is meddling and manipulative.
Charity Navigator and Guide Star, two non-profit accountability revue and rating organizations, have both reported overall scores regarding accountability and transparency to be below average around 68 percent.
At this time the campaign has a “Cover the Night” event planned for this Thursday, April 20, 2012, to blanket streets and homes with “Kony 2012″ materials and a “Dancing for Good” marathon, during which supporters dance for 20 hours and 12 minutes.
The complaint is the potentially misleading message behind the campaign that gives those willing participants a basis for believing the LRA is active and thriving in Uganda.
According to Riley Wilson, a journalist for “Advertising Age,” the Kony 2012 film briefly and subtly addressed LRA inactivity in Uganda today.
The LRA is known as a rebel resistance that professed spiritual war against the Ugandan government in the late 1980s, yet has since lost any real political aspirations and has preyed upon civilians.
For more than 20 years the Acholi people of Uganda have seen their homelands erode with a declining economy, security and their morality-making the war in Uganda, Northern Africa’s longest running war.
The LRA’s principal means of recruitment has been the abduction of children. Ninety percent of the recruits are children, which was last known to be about 3,000. These child soldiers were controlled by a core group of 150-200 LRA officers, under the direction of Joseph Kony.
Under Kony’s command LRA forces had been responsible for tens of thousands of rapes, assaults and killings of unarmed civilians. It is estimated 25,000 to 30,000 children have been abducted over the years and forced to witness and commit atrocities during the northern Ugandan war conflicts between the LRA and the Ugandan Government.
In 2003, United Nations Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs- Jan Egeland reported of no other areas of the world having an emergency of greater scale and receiving so little international attention.
Canada’s Secretary of State for Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America 1997-2002, David Kilgour has reported more than 1.7 million Ugandan northerners have been displaced by the war and live in harsh and often desperate conditions, in camps for the internally displaced (IDP).
The Ugandan People’s Defense Force (UPDF) has forcibly moved civilians on the grounds that the displacement was necessary to combat the LRA and distinguish civilians from LRA fighters. Kilgour reported in certain districts up to 95 percent of the population is currently, internally displaced.
Just three years into the conflict in Uganda, on July 18, 1995, the US Department of Defense joined forces with Americares Foundation Inc., the Schipol Triport, and The Netherlands to transport more than 117 tons of highly valuable medical supplies and pharmaceuticals to help the people of six African nations to fulfill responsibilities and help alleviate suffering throughout Northern Africa under the Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP).
Under the 1986 Department of Defense Authorization Act, Humanitarian and Refugee Affairs (HRA) was authorized to transport non-lethal excess property, relief supplies and privately donated cargo to meet humanitarian need worldwide.
In an ongoing response to the deterioration of these war torn countries the US Department of Defense continued to utilized HRA to deliver more than 370 transportation missions to more than 50 countries in need, including Northern Africa.
Supporting US strategy on promoting stability and improving the capabilities of African militaries, such as the Ugandan Peoples Defense Force, on July 17, 1997 the US Secretary of Defense directed the United States European Command to initiate training for select African nations which accepted the US Government’s offer for training of units under the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI).
ACRI, a training initiative intended to work with African states to create highly effective, rapidly-deployable peacekeeping units, operated jointly in the event of humanitarian crisis or in a traditional peacekeeping operation.
On July 21, 1997 approximately 120 US soldiers from the Army’s 3rd Special Forces group along with other support troops deployed to begin training battalion-size units in Senegal and Uganda. Their deployment marked the first step in implementing the African Crisis Response Initiative.
Today African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program, formerly the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), is a United States program to train military trainers and equip African national militaries to conduct peace support operations and humanitarian relief in their countries.
World leaders and peace officials have reported on current conditions of malnutrition in children and the near total devastation of social networks, culture and norms in Northern Africa, including Uganda where the Invisible Children campaign is focused.
More than 300,000 children under the age of five suffer from malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea and preventable diseases.
In IDP camps a thousand people are estimated to die every week as a result of the war and its aftermath. Many women and girls are focused on sex trade as a means of contributing support for their families but not without the great spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
Although the camps are scantly guarded by UPDF soldiers the camps are far from secure and free of attack.
US and UN officials agree that support of rebuilding the region is one objective where focus on development of young Acholi leaders and professionals constitutes an essential investment in their future-one to instill livelihood, culture and hope for the future.
Kilgour has urged those willing to donate, to partner with organizations such as Unicef or Concerned Parents Association in Lira, Uganda and other organizations the United Nations Humanitarian Affairs partners with.