Martine Rolls: Net closes on Kony

Last week, I mentioned online protesting and questioned if it could be successful.

I said that it was easy for people to jump on the wagon then hook off again soon after and move on to the next big thing.

Don't get me wrong, I acknowledge that if protests are important enough, and if the people behind it are original and persistent, that protest campaigns can make a difference. Social media can be a powerful tool to gain support and get a message across.

All I'm saying is that the cause or the campaign has to be pretty huge to make decision-makers act upon it.

The best example I can think of is Invisible Children, a not-for-profit organisation that uses social media to inspire young people to help end the longest-running war in Africa.

Last week, I spotted the Kony 2012 post that is circulating on Facebook.

After watching the 30-minute video, I was moved, so I shared.

In case you don't know what this particular matter is about, Joseph Kony is the leader of a long-standing rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), which operates mainly in Uganda.

His name is on the top of the International Criminal Court's most wanted list for crimes against humanity.

And he is the main man behind a huge army of African child soldiers.

For more than two decades, Kony has refused all opportunities to negotiate and to end the violence peacefully.

He has changed tactics several times but has continued to build his army by abducting children and turning them into cold-blooded killers.

When I was in university, I interviewed two former child soldiers from Uganda.

The boys had escaped the LRA and found their way to Europe as refugees. They were 11 and 13 at the time but seemed so much older. In their eyes, you could clearly see they had lost their innocence.

The governments of countries in which Kony has operated, including Uganda, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, have been unable to capture the man and bring him to justice.

The main aim of the Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 campaign is to get the US Government involved.

The campaign also advocates for broader measures to help the communities that have been badly affected by LRA attacks, such as increased funding for programmes to help child soldiers escape and return to their homes and families, as well as educational programmes to help them get a decent start in life.

Invisible Children is, therefore, using film, creativity and social media action in a bid to end the use of child soldiers as well as restore those communities badly affected by the LRA to peace and prosperity.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

That is a noble and worthy goal.

Invisible Children says on its website that the goal of Kony 2012 is for the world to unite to see the man arrested and prosecuted for his crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court (ICC).

And thanks to social media, the news of this campaign has travelled fast.

Kony 2012 has been viewed more than 71 million times on YouTube.

While on Twitter, celebrities such as Justin Bieber, Will Smith and JK Rowling have supported the campaign by tweeting about it.

However, many critics say it is a money-making scam or that killing or arresting Kony won't fix the problem, just like killing Osama bin Laden has not ended terrorism.

That may be so but, first of all, this is an excellent example of using social media for effective story-telling.

Second, there is a strong call to action. It is hugely effective in raising awareness. That may not be the ultimate goal, but it certainly is a good side effect.

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- Bay of Plenty Times

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