Joseph Kony


Seattle man, former Sudan lost boy, joins hunt for Joseph Kony | 

South Sudan warrior
Flickr, babasteve

Machot Lat Thiep is a front line supervisor at the north Seattle Costco store, a graduate of the University of Washington and a 32-year-old family man with a wife and three young sons. No, that is not him pictured above. But he’s quite familiar with that look.

Machot Lat Thiep
Machot Lat Thiep

Many years ago, Thiep was one of the Sudan’s famous ‘lost boys’ who spent years fleeing conflict, struggling to survive and bouncing between refugee camps in East Africa. In 1995, he was able to emigrate to the United States as part of a United Nations’ resettlement program and was sent to Seattle as a foster child – which was also quite difficult at times, at least until he ended up with a family that actually cared for him.

So why, with all that trouble behind him, a good job and a young family, would Thiep decide to join up with a fellow known for getting himself into dangerous places and go after the infamous African warlord Joseph Kony?

“I want to help people understand what’s going on with my people, why they are being killed,” Thiep said. One of the less appreciated angles on what is happening currently in the newly conflicted South Sudan, he said, is the Ugandan military’s attacks on tribal communities that are judged unfriendly to the current besieged president of the country.

“The Ugandan military doesn’t do anything without consulting the Americans,” Thiep contended. “Why are they bombing my people? Why are they even in South Sudan?” Continue reading

Invisible Children was a fiasco. Is Expedition Kony the real deal? | 

Robert Young Pelton
Robert Young Pelton

This week we covered Expedition Kony, a crowdsourced project by swashbuckling adventurer/author/journalist Robert Young Pelton to find warlord Joseph Kony in northern Uganda. “This is a project that seeks to shine a light on this hunt, on the hunters as well as the hunted,” we concluded.

But there are still questions to be answered – who is Pelton and why does he think he’s qualified to find Kony? What will he do if he meets him? And what about critics who say this belongs in the “#Bullsh*t Files,” like Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 project, which ended with Jason Russell, the founder of the organization, naked in the streets of San Diego?

Well, we had an extended chat with the guy so you can judge for yourself. Despite his bravado, Pelton doesn’t seem as cartoonish as Russell or evoke the same sort of messianic zeal. In a similar vein, his analysis complicates reductive, simplistic portraits of Kony himself. This “media event” he’s trying to put together seeks to uncover the governments, wealthy actors, and nonprofits (he calls Africa’s NGO sector a “self-licking lollipop”) implicated in why a two-bit rebel leader like Kony, of all people, is a household name.

Before all that, Tom and I discuss the top Humanosphere headlines this week: why one major charity head is calling for a shift in focus from disasters to politics, and the less savory side of “the golden age of philanthropy.”

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Kony 2: Shining a light on hunt for the notorious African warlord | 

Joseph Kony
Joseph Kony

Remember Joseph Kony?

He’s that infamous, murderous African rebel leader who, for a while anyway, was world public enemy number one because of his long and bloody history of indiscriminant murder, child kidnapping, sex slavery and other atrocities committed across central Africa.

There are plenty of other murderous people out there, in all parts of the world, with similar resumes. But Kony went to the top of the list of global bad guys in 2012 thanks to a powerful video produced by an evangelical Christian organization in California called Invisible Children that aimed to spur public outrage and a new push to capture or kill him.

Outrage was spurred and all sorts of things got set in motion, including the deployment of US special forces to the region and a somewhat bizarre paramilitary adventure funded by Howard Buffett and a Texas philanthropist named Shannon Sedgwick Davis – whose faith led her to support an unsuccessful private military action against the Kony abominations.

But Kony remains at large, frustratingly so.

Robert Young Pelton
Robert Young Pelton

Enter Robert Young Pelton, author of the “World’s Most Dangerous Places,” adventurer, businessman and (very) independent journalist. Pelton, along with Seattle-based documentary film-maker Ross Fenter and his colleague Rob Swain, have launched a crowd-funding campaign to go find Kony themselves.

This new hunt for Joseph Kony is called Expedition Kony, is something of a new media experiment and you can contribute to it (or even join it) via Indiegogo. Not surprisingly, given Invisible Children’s stunning rise and fall, Pelton’s new adventure is already drawing criticism, if not ridicule. Continue reading

Kony parody prompts threats of lawsuit by Kony hunters | 


Joseph Kony

Remember the awful African warlord Joseph Kony? Then you should also remember the organization Invisible Children which launched an amazingly successful online video campaign (in terms of public awareness anyway, not to mention fund-raising) dubbed Stop Kony.

Invisible Children’s online media campaign fell from public grace almost as quickly as it had initially skyrocketed up due to a series of events, including the bizarre, still largely unexplained, behavior of the organization’s founder (and main character in the video) Jason Russell.

More relevant than Russell’s antics were that critics showed the group had distorted facts in order to produce a more compelling story — and that their proposed solution of sending in the military to Uganda to capture Kony was a dangerous and simplistic idea. Turns out Kony wasn’t even in Uganda.

Anyway, today Kony remains at large. The hunt goes on but other warlords like Congo’s Bosco Ntaganda (or alleged war criminal Sudan President Omar al-Bashir) may deserve more attention.

Still, some NYU students felt compelled to poke fun at the Kony campaign and produced a parody fund-raiser at a fake site called Kickstriker of Invisible Children’s campaign — which has provoked the organization to threaten the students with a lawsuit.

Tom Murphy at A View from the Cave noted the latest in the Kony saga, saying:

The founders of Kickstriker, a blatant tip of the hat to Kickstarter, are not willing to back down. They cite fair use for being able to reproduce the IC images and information. A quick look at the page (seen below) can fool the unknowing user. However, when the pledge opportunities increase and a would-be supporter can receive Kony’s teeth or even his skull for a cool million, it becomes apparent that this is a hoax.

The basic news about Invisible Children’s threats of legal action are covered in the Danger Room section of Wired by Spencer Ackerman. It’s a good article that covers the basic tit-for-tat. But Tom Murphy helps put this flap in context:

All in all, it is a rather clever way to point out the consequences of advocating and cheering on a military solution to the problem of the LRA. Some may be upset that it carries it too far, but the point of satire is to push the boundaries while remaining within the constraints of a given subject area.