African Experts: Stop Kony? Not So Fast

Capturing the elusive warlord is more complicated than what the public saw in the viral video.

Joseph Kony (Stuart Price/AFP/Getty Images)
Joseph Kony (Stuart Price/AFP/Getty Images)

One place you won’t find a “Stop Kony 2012” sticker is at the headquarters of the African Union, the continental body that has spent years chasing the elusive rebel leader.

The Ethiopia-based organization has released no reaction to the wildly popular video calling for the arrest of warlord Joseph Kony. The slickly produced video — which in only two weeks has been seen by more than 82 million people on YouTube — presents a visceral look at Kony’s atrocities and attempts to translate them into a universal problem through the lens of an adorable blond, American child. Several officials at African Union headquarters, who have long been familiar with Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, said that they hadn’t even watched the video.

As many critics have already said, the situation is more complicated than can be conveyed in a 30-minute piece. And analysts and officials on the continent say that the video, simplified as it is, won’t change their mission or the inherent difficulties in pursuing the elusive warlord.

Thought to be in his early 50s, Kony originally based his movement in northern Uganda on a bizarre and strict interpretation of the Ten Commandments, which his critics — including the International Criminal Court, the United Nations and international rights groups — say he has widely ignored through his crimes against humanity.

The African Union has long condemned Kony’s ragtag force as a terrorist group. The AU most recently met in late February to discuss how to pursue him and the group that has spent more than two decades cutting a wide and painful swath across central Africa through rapes, abductions, torture and killings. The ICC issued a warrant against him in 2005.

A diplomat present at the African Union meeting said that officials there “unanimously resolved” to strengthen the fight against the rebel group with assistance from several armies and the U.N. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he said he was not authorized to speak to journalists.

The diplomat also said that the video has made little impact at the continental organization, and he himself had not seen it — a sentiment echoed by El Ghassim Wane, the head of the African Union’s conflict-management division.

“The AU policy against Kony was done long, long, long before the video,” Wane said. “I have not seen the video,” he said, “but all I’m saying is that what was decided was decided years ago. It’s not new for us. We don’t need to be told what to do.”

But is 2012 a realistic deadline to catch a man who has eluded justice for decades?