By Amadou M. Cissé
I am sure by now that most of you have heard about if not already seen the video that went viral on YouTube entitled Kony 2012, a documentary asking to put an end to the abhorrent activities to the International Criminal Court’s most wanted criminal, Joseph Kony. A Ugandan national, Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army and is infamously known to have abducted over 30,000 children as recruits to his army. What I found most tragic about the video was the fact that children soldiers have become the norm in conflict areas in Africa and sadly there seems to be a very lethargic reaction to this outrage.
I commend Invisible Children for having the courage to discuss a very difficult and even controversial subject using social media. To raise awareness of an unspoken situation, you have to engage people and initiate the discussion. Kony 2012 generated a lot of debates for and against the movement. Opponents of the video have stated that releasing the video has not helped the situation since Kony is still free, somewhere in central Africa, still abducting children and engaged in a senseless rebellion. The same opponents will add that this video is again exploiting the misfortune of Africans to profit Westerners. I totally disagree with these views for two reasons. First, I have not seen any of these opponents do something themselves to help stop Kony besides criticizing. Second, not talking about Kony means that we are not giving a voice to those who have no means to advocate for themselves.
In too many instances, the victims end up being more victimized because no one will stand for them. In the quest for justice, one should use all available means to show what a criminal has done and continues to do in defiance of common sense and peace. After all, let’s remember that the ethnic cleansing in Rwanda was not adverted because no one knew what was going in real time. We are so fortunate to live in the digital revolution where information is no longer in the hands of a few, rather accessible to the mass. Invisible Children through the use of social media was able to transform their message into a movement to bring one of the world’s most wanted criminal to justice. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, just to name a few, were all instrumental for spreading news just as they did during the Arab Spring because the people were broadcasting what news they felt was the most relevant.
A few weeks ago, Mali, my country of origin, was victim of a military coup. As I was completely oblivious of the situation because so busy with work, I was alerted by my brother-in-law, an avid Twitter user. He knew in real time what was going even before most traditional media outlet such as CNN or The Washington Post had spread the news. The following weeks, I was glued to my Twitter account (@UniverSahel) and I was flooded with information about the progress in Mali. Two days ago, under international and regional pressure, the junta reinstituted the constitution and the President of the National Assembly assumed the interim. Democracy was saved thanks to social media and the thousands of “social reporters” who fed us with critical information. I now hope and pray that Kony and all other warlords will be also brought to justice thanks to social media.
By Amadou M. Cissé, EMBA 12, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland