21 April 2012

Central Africa: Kony 2012 Cover the Night

No more slacktivism, time for activism. Invisible Children, the makers of the massively successful Kony 2012 viral video, called upon people around the world to not only click the like button on Facebook, but to go out on the streets on Friday 20 April and cover the place where they live with Kony posters.

The video and posters are aimed at raising awareness about Joseph Kony, the Ugandan leader of the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), who is being accused of committing atrocities, including kidnapping children and forcing them to fight, and turning girls into sex slaves. Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports from the Kony 2012 Cover the Night events in the UK, the USA and the Netherlands.

London, UK

By Anne Saenen

In a narrow walkway in front of the National Portrait Gallery in central London youths have gathered. They are not here to go out on this rainy Friday night. They are here to "make Joseph Kony famous".

More than 6,000 people support the Kony2012 London Area Event on Facebook, but only around 50 of them have turned up. The group of young activists planned to cover Trafalgar Square with posters. But tonight iron barriers surround the famous square. Tomorrow St George day will be celebrated on the square and due to preparations for that event it is closed to the public. The organisers of Kony 2012 Cover the Night London hadn't thought of it.

"It is not very well organised," say four friends, Danny, Toni, Vibeke and Charlotte. They have already put most of their posters up and have only a few left. "Security guards have already taken them down again," they complain.

Still the friends don't think their actions are in vain: "Although the problems with the LRA won't be fixed overnight," says 21-year-old student Toni Jordan, "Millions of people have watched the video on the internet. People of my generation all know who Joseph Kony is now. I'd never heard of him before and, see, I'm here hanging posters. To get people out is an achievement in itself."

Austin, Texas, USA

By Reinout van Wagtendonk

The outdoor Hope Gallery in Austin offers local artists large brick walls to paint on. But the colourful murals got tagged with graffiti over time. The Kony 2012 Cover the Night campaign cleaned up the gallery grounds, whitewashed defaced wall paintings and put up their own banners and posters.

"To be heard globally you want to do good locally," said Alex Alberico, one of the two Street Team members sent by Invisible Children to the Texas capital to build awareness about Kony's crimes. "We emphasize community service."

Alberico has postponed going to university to work for Invisible Children for a small monthly stipend. "I believe that I learn so much more this way," he said. "I travel with people who have experienced the abductions, who have lost parents. That has given me a whole different perspective on life."

Vicky Adong from Uganda is one of the "roadies" who travel around the United States to share their personal experiences with Kony's LRA with people. She was at the Hope Gallery event, answering questions from the dozens of people who came by. The night before, Adong spoke at a meeting of students from the University of Texas "to show them who is this man who killed my uncle, who made us leave our village and made us live in fear."

Students Julia Hudson and Caroline Carmer helped organize that event. Hudson said she only recently became aware of the Kony horror story. "I cried when I saw it," she said about the viral YouTube video. Last year, Carmer had helped restart the dormant University of Texas chapter of Invisible Children, inspired by her strong Christian beliefs. "This is an incredible opportunity to help other people," she said.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

By Elizabeth Mbundu

While about 4,000 people on Facebook had initially committed to attend the midnight event on Museum Square, less than 100 people actually showed up on the chilly Friday night. Most of them were Dutch pupils and students, inspired to raise awareness for the issue.

"When Amsterdam wakes up tomorrow morning, the whole city will be aware of who Kony is and he will have to seize his actions," said an enthusiastic Fabian Wolf (25), freelance designer and organizer of the event. "Seeing the movie on March 7th made me decide to do something; I wanted to make a difference."

At half past 11 the movie Kony 2012 was aired on a big screen. While many initially had been appalled by the atrocities shown in the film, it seemed to have lost its impact. Taking pictures with smartphones, filming the event and posting it immediately on Facebook and Twitter seemed to be more important.

At midnight flares were lit, the poster hanging event was officially kicked off and the whole atmosphere almost turned a bit festive, when Fabian Wolf shouted: "Let's get Kony!"

Not everyone seemed inspired by the Invisible Children campaign. 19-year-old student Billai Aboorh was skeptical: "I don't think after tonight much will happen. You will see a lot of YouTube videos of all the different cities that are doing this tonight, but I don't think it will have a great impact."

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