Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Kony2012: 'I Met Joseph Kony'

Invisible Children’s Kony2012 Youtube video has become a viral phenomena, racking up almost 83.6 million hits in just two weeks. However, almost nobody in the western media has actually met with the Ugandan warlord – apart from Financial Times reporter Matthew Green, who met with him after six months pursuit while writing his book WIZARD OF THE NILE: THE HUNT FOR AFRICA’S MOST WANTED. I called Green by satellite phone to ask about how you track down one of the world’s most wanted men.

So when did you actually meet Joseph Kony?

In eastern Congo in 2006. It was in a forest clearing in Garamba National Park.

What are the logistics of tracking down someone so reclusive?

In a sense I was very lucky – it was a unique moment when for a few months he emerged to take part in peace negotiations with elders from northern Uganda. So for a very short period, it was possible for me to hitch a ride with the negotiators

What sense did you get of him as a person?

There’s two Konies. There’s the sort of frightened warlord who’s terrified of the fact that the outside world is taking an interest in him and he might be captured and sent to The Hague [international criminal court]. And then there’s this charismatic, powerful orator who is capable of capturing audiences when he speaks in the Acholi language, and exerts this hypnotic grip over his followers.

Why do you think this video’s gone worldwide so quickly?

The success of this viral video is that it paints a very compelling, clear cut narrative of good against evil and invites the viewer to participate. It’s an incredibly powerful pull and narrative and it’s clearly resonated with people. It’s as much about the skill of the filmmakers as it is the issue of Kony himself.

What do you make of their call for military intervention in Uganda?
Bear in mind that Kony left Uganda six years ago and hasn’t been back since, but that said, he has been causing atrocities in Central African Republic and Congo. But a bungled operation by the military could backfire, we’ve seen this before when they’ve failed to get him and he’s instigated mass killings in retaliation. However, I would say that if the US took an interest and used their Special Forces expertise to take him out of action that would be a good thing.

And finally, will he be aware of all this interest in him?
I think he’s very aware. Remember that the rebels take a very keen interest in world events, they monitor the World Service, and they have supporters around the world in the Acholi diaspora. They’ll be aware of this interest in him, and Kony will be a very frightened man.

Teenage Engineering in new issue of Wallpaper*

My feature on Swedish synth-building design studio TEENAGE ENGINEERING and their OP-1 synthesiser is out now in the current issue of Wallpaper*.