Last week, I had dinner with a part of my family as we celebrated a niece’s 18th birthday. As you can imagine, an 18 year old living in Johannesburg is very informed about life’s issues if only through the social media that teenagers are glued to.
As we chatted through the evening, my niece curiously asked, “Who exactly is this moribund LRA rebel group and why hasn’t Joseph Kony been captured since commencing his reign of terror over two-decades ago?” It was immediately clear to me that she had joined the millions of people who have watched the Invisible Children video that went viral a few weeks ago over the internet about the war-lord Joseph Kony and calling for his arrest this year. Her parents quickly joined in queue with questions about the LRA’s origins, the rebels’ current whereabouts and the arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court.
I didn’t labour very hard to provide some answers to their questions. The conversation around the table assisted me to explaining the kind of work that I was engaged in over the past two years travelling to Northern Uganda eliciting the responses of victims and affected communities of the conflict between the LRA and the Ugandan government forces. The guns in Northern Uganda are silent but the devastating effects of the conflict that span over two decades remains etched in the almost bear stretches of land in the north of Uganda dotted by towns with little or no infrastructure to support economically meaningful livelihoods of its inhabitants.
Since the video on “STOP KONY 2012 Campaign” was released, there have been many negative comments about the inaccuracies of its content, that the narratives were derogatory of the children and other victims of the conflict among many others concerns. Whereas I agree with some of these comments, I must marvel at the effectiveness of the campaign in educating people all over the world about the terrible crimes that were committed to the inhabitants of Northern Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic by the LRA and redress outstanding. Millions of people are now in the know about the conflict that was in Northern Uganda and their curiosity has led them to look into the matter concerning the LRA with more detail and circumspection about the international efforts to stop continued violence against civilian population in that part of the world.
The question however remains why the powers-that-be have not arrested the rebels. These powers have known about the LRA for as long as the group has existed and are well privy to the crimes that the rebels have committed and continue to commit. The arrest warrants for Joseph Kony and other top ranking LRA commanders issued by the International Criminal Court remain outstanding. The campaign did not raise any new issues that those who can do something to stop these rebels did not know. The victims of these crimes the abducted children, those forced into sexual slavery and those disfigured from the machetes and other crude weapons cry out for justice. Let not our focus shift. These are the people desperately in need of intervention at both the international and national levels.