Kan the Kids Katch Kony?

15 March 2012

Uganda is a spectacularly beautiful country, with wonderful, warm, clever people to match. I first went there in 1984 as a consultant to the United Nations Capital Development Fund. The country, denominated by its colonial masters as “The Jewel of Africa”, was considered as a model of a well-run country with a competent and honest civil service. After Independence, the unexpected product of this was Idi Amin, who terrorized the country between 1971-79, and who himself was deposed by Obote, who was toppled by the current President, Museveni, after a bloody tenure some say was as bad as Amim’s rule. Museveni, while criticized by some for his succession issues, has undeniably brought development and prosperity to much of the country, along with, for the most part, peace and stability.

The exception, of course, has been the campaign of Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, which pretends to seek power but in fact is more of criminal sect which abducts, tortures and murders children as so graphically depicted in the “Invisible Children” Youtube. While some are troubled by the vigilante overtones to this enterprise, it is undeniably a work of PR genius and the latest example of how to use social media to shine a spotlight on a problem no government or UN Agency wants to “own” or solve.

Can it succeed? While I don’t speak for my organization on this one, personally, I’m rooting for them. One suggestion: when pursuing criminals in societies with less than smoothly functioning legal systems, cash rewards for information-leading-to-the-capture-of can be very effective. A reward the AFL-CIO offered back in 1980 for the capture of the assassins of my boss, Michael Hammer, in El Salvador produced an informant whose assistance eventually resulted in perpetrators’ capture and incarceration. At FINCA, we offered a cash reward for the architects of a major fraud in 1994, also in El Salvador, which was picked up by Univision. A domestic watching it play on the tele in her client’s living room in Las Vegas (the perpetrator had fled to the US) recognized the woman she was working with as the one depicted in the reward poster and turned her in. She was deported and spent four years in a Salvadoran prison for her crime.

So go for it, kids. You may have just pioneered an international criminal’s and worst nightmare.

Rupert Scofield


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