Digests | March 30, 2012

Rights Groups and Scholars Discuss the LRA

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The dramatically successful viral video “Kony 2012″ continues to prompt debate within academic, NGO, and activist circles. Supporters argue that the video has helped to raise awareness of a brutal and overlooked conflict; opponents critique the video for simplifying the conflict and misleading viewers on key facts.  In the midst of the debate, several groups are hoping to use increased media attention as an opportunity to better educate the general public on the conflict—as well as on the implications of the many policy responses now being discussed.

Human Rights Watch issued a Question and Answer sheet “Who is Joseph Kony?” on 22 March, which provides a basic outline of the conflict and its history, as well as providing extensive recommendations for the governments in the region and elsewhere, as well as for various international organizations. The Q&A also provides an outline of the international justice mechanisms and their role in addressing the conflict. Overall, HRW acknowledges the criticisms of the video, but finds that “the film’s central message is also valid: Kony. . . and other LRA leaders should be arrested and brought to justice.” Read more here.

The Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (ACAS) issued a more critical statement on 14 March, expressing concern “that the recent campaign in the United States to pursue and arrest Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), could have dangerous unintended consequences.”

Expanding U.S. military operations with the Ugandan army to capture Kony could increase the militarization of the region and lead to deaths of civilians who are caught in the crossfire or become targets of retaliatory attacks by the LRA, as has occurred in the past. Indeed, the Ugandan army itself has been guilty of atrocities and abuse of civilians. First and foremost, the U.S. government must refrain from actions that could undermine peace and security.

Full statement here.

Meanwhile, 24 March marked the beginning of the operational phase of the African Union-led Regional Cooperation Initiative for the Elimination of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The Initiative, which has been in planning since well before the Kony 2012 phenomenon, is being supported by the United Nations, particularly the UN Office in Central Africa (UNOCA). The main product of the Initiative is a Regional Task Force comprised of 5,000 troops from the conflict-affected countries, coordinated by a body of regional Ministers of Defense, under AU auspices.