The most horrible man you've probably never heard of

Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, and an indicted war criminal:

Watch this short film, please, and decide for yourself what you’d like to do next:

The LRA and Kony have been around for years and are arguably much less powerful now than they have been in a long time. Why has everyone been talking about this so much in the last two days all of a sudden? Doesn’t anyone remember when Rush was criticizing Obama for sending soldiers to fight against these “Christians”?

I don’t know how they’ve done it, but the PR people for this are incredible. I’ve seen something about this video every place on the internet I go.

While many people (myself included) hadn’t heard his name before now, surely we’ve heard that Uganda and The Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan aren’t the nicest places to live because they’re wartorn shitholes, right? This puts a name and face to the warmongers for we westerners, but it’s hardly breaking news.

It’s spreading fast these last couple of days thanks to Facebook and Twitter, but it’s usually not a mystery why Old News suddenly hits as New News on social media. Some “hub” person with a lot of slacktivist Friends finally saw it on her News Feed and pressed Share. Repeat. And repeat. And repeat. Eventually it gets to someone at the BBC who’s actually a journalist and they get their editor to okay a story on it.

Uganda has had a problem with these assholes for quite some time. We were posted to the embassy in Kampala in 1997-98 and they were operating in the northern areas. Unlike the Congo, Uganda is far from war-torn, but this group has been a thorn in the government’s side. They have the charming practice of waylaying innocents on roads and then cutting off feet or hands because they have decided to declare that particular road “holy” on that day. It’s an excuse for butchery. That said, we traveled fairly extensively in Uganda to game reserves and even to the Congo border at Bwindi without issue. You were in more danger from bandits back then. Nobody traveled up north except the ambassador, and he went with armed escort.

People have heard of this guy. This was in the national and international news years ago.

The fact that people deliberately put it out of their minds is a different sort of problem, isn’t it?

If Silver Fire’s article is correct, this is receiving a lot of attention now because a very shady charity organisation (which won’t let it’s accounts be independently audited) is kicking up a storm about it.

I’ve heard about the LRA before, reading up on them is truly depressing. There is no easy solution to the problems of the region.

There is a GD thread discussing this here.

I’d hate to see a “name recognition” survey on Charles Taylor, let alone people like Kony. A lot of folks don’t know about the evil doers of the world.

Wasn’t it just a few months ago that comedian Rush Limbaugh said, in an attempt to demonize Obama, that Christians were being slaughtered in Africa (using the LRA as an example) and that Obama was doing nothing about it? When called on his bullshit, he said something like he’ll do more research on what the LRA is

Thanks - hadn’t heard all that before.

Critiquing the finances of another organisation on a Cheezburger affiliate? Despicable.

Anyway, they responded here apparently.

Here’s more on the Kony controversy:

I’ve never heard of this guy. But I have a second cousin who is in the Foreign Service and was once posted to Uganda. I’m going to write and ask her about this.

I think I once owned a pair of his shoes. And say what you like about Kony, the guy made great TVs.

Three years ago I started a thread about the future of central Africa which included a bit on the LRA in northern Uganda.

Nice to see that this issue has gone viral (when did this happen? Was I sleeping?), maybe I should reanimate it.

It’s just some video about him that was put on vimeo and youtube.

I’m not up-to-date on this particular organization, but I do study security and development in Central Africa.

This looks to me like an advocacy organization, which is a perfectly legitimate type of organization to be. Lots of massively important decisions get made by public opinion. For example, the public perception of how the US handled Somalia played a direct role in both the rise of Al Queda and our failure to act on the Rwanda genocide. The people in congress are not experts in every random foreign policy issue, and they make their decisions on what their constituency wants. This means that US public opinion can have a very real, game changing effect on international affairs. And advocacy groups play a role in keeping their particular agendas on the map. And so of course their funding is going to go to advocacy and not to feeding orphans or whatever. That’s not their mission.

Their salaries are not out of line with industry standards. Running an NGO requires pretty much the exact same skill set as running a business. You need to be able to have vision, develop talent, manage budgets, run effective projects, etc. It’s the same thing. And development NGOs have some major drawbacks- frequent travel makes it tough for family life, you may find yourself in serious risky security situations, it can be hard to buy houses or have the accouterments of ordinary life, etc. So in order to attract people more talented than starry eyed undergrads and cranks, NGOs have to pay competitively.

To address Komy, yeah, he is a real baddie. He’s been making trouble for years, and he really is just an old fashioned nihilistic sadistic bastard who has been a thorn in everyone’s side for a while. And he has seriously screwed up security in a number of countries who have it bad enough without random psychopaths coming in and slaughtering folks for no discernable reason. He’s got the advantage of being in an area with relatively weak central governments all around, and nobody really has the capacity to contain him. The governments simply don’t control the border regions, and they don’t have the military power to do mucha bout the random criminals camping out on their territory.

But he’s also on the decline. His force has dwindled, and he’s on the run. The US sent some people out to get him, but as far as I can tell they haven’t actually been trying too hard to get where he actually is. It’s hard to tell if this is “get Bin Laden when he was still in Sudan being a troublemaker” or if it’s “wild goosechase for a has-been rebel.”

The whole “Ugandan military” thing is complex. Modern countries need governments to work- they need security, social services, legit ways to manage national revenue, etc. But a government is only as good as people believe that it is and invest in it. A fragmented country that doesn’t see it’s government as having control or being capable of providing security will end up with a government that cannot control it’s borders and needs to rely on bargaining with warlords, ethnic alliances, and keeping the upper-class power elites cushy in order to survive. A weak government, for example, is going to end up dead if they try an anti-corruption campaign that threatens the next-highest level of government. Anyway, this all creates a bit of a catch-22. In order to make a government robust enough to make positive change, it needs to become strong, which isn’t something you want to encourage in a bad government. But the alternative- revolution- rarely works out well for anyone and doesn’t usually lead t lasting positive change. So there just isn’t a neat and clean solution.

Thanks, even sven. Good points.

Here’s Charity Navigator’s take on the anti-Kony group: