Get to know Joseph Kony: butcher, rapist

To see the video that launched a thousand Facebook posts, check out

One night last week, we all went to sleep, and when we awoke, our Facebook newsfeeds were covered with unmistakable “Kony 2012” slogans, a dozen or so repostings of a 30-minute video campaign put together by the Invisible Children organization and invitations to an April 20 event called “Cover the Night.”

Joseph Kony is one of the world’s 10 most wanted fugitives. He is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a militant group that operates primarily in Uganda, Sudan and other areas in Africa. Kony and the LRA are known for committing crimes against civilians including rape, murder and sexual enslavement, and for forcing children into warfare.

Some U.S. action has been taken to stop Kony. Last October, President Obama authorized the deployment of about 100 U.S. troops to central Africa to assist local forces fighting against Kony and the LRA.

For years, I have heard murmurings about Invisible Children, an organization dedicated primarily to raising awareness of the LRA’s crimes against children. I have met people who were incredibly passionate about the cause. But I’ve met far more people who’d never heard of it.

Now, it appears Invisible Children is well on its way to achieving its goal of making Kony infamous around the world. The seemingly overnight increase in awareness of Uganda’s problems is pretty impressive, but the mission is not accomplished yet.

Katie Caffery is one volunteer who has been working to organize the Cover the Night event in Reno. The night will include a rally downtown, a barbecue, the hanging of some posters, and the pressuring of local and national lawmakers to support the United States’ assistance to African forces in removing Kony from power. Caffery’s Facebook event already has more than 1,400 confirmed attendees.

“I was actually one of the ones who had no idea about the entire thing until that video went viral,” Caffery said. “I sat down and watched that, and I was really inspired by it, so I decided to get a group of friends together to do the Cover the Night event and go around and post posters up for awareness, and it actually turned into a really big group, so it’s great.”

Social networking has enabled us to share important information to hundreds of people within seconds. The internet has enabled us to discover and research any subject imaginable. It’s good that we are trying to use these tools to help people around the world solve their problems, but it’s important to do so wisely. It is always worthwhile to spend some additional time reading the plethora of available information and thinking critically about the organizations and causes you’re being compelled to support.

Invisible Children has a history of problematic practices that make many wary of the Kony 2012 campaign. Invisible Children’s finances and staff have both been called into question. Allegations include the organization refusing to cooperate with the Better Business Bureau and using large amounts of money raised to pay staff exorbitant salaries.

“From my point of view, I understand the criticism, but I think the cause is bigger than that,” Caffery said. “I think we’re getting a lot of support. I expect the criticism, but I’m just happy with the way Reno’s responding as a group.”

This issue is bigger than something that can be solved with Facebook posts, donations to questionable charities or rich white kids traveling to Africa. To take down Kony as a leader, disassemble the Ugandan dictatorship and LRA, and free the child soldiers will take dedication beyond purchasing a bracelet, but it is most certainly a cause worthy of our attention.

Attend Cover the Night if you desire. Donate money to Invisible Children if your heart tells you to. Petition the U.S. government to take action toward Kony’s arrest. But ensure that you do so because you are well informed about the issues, and not because you want to be smug about it on Facebook.