The African Union says it will create a special force to track down notorious rebel leader Joseph Kony in the heart of central Africa. The announcement follows a viral video campaign that courted controversy around the world.
The Uganda-led mission will commence in South Sudan on Saturday, United Nations and African Union officials said at a news conference in Uganda, AP reports.
The 5,000-strong brigade tasked with bringing down Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) will consist of regional troops whose countries have been affected by the rebel group’s activities.
“We need to stop Kony with hardware – with military hardware in this case,” the African Union’s special envoy on the LRA, Francisco Madeira, said on Friday. “We are on a mission to stop him.”
The announcement follows the Kony 2012 Internet movie sensation created by the US advocacy group Invisible Children. Invisible children say the video, which has now garnered more than 100 million views, was created “to end the use of child soldiers in Joseph Kony’s rebel war and restore LRA-affected communities in central Africa to peace and prosperity.”
However, questions about the group’s finances and widespread condemnation of the film in Uganda were followed by a very public meltdown by Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell.
But while Russell ironically became as infamous as he had intended to make Kony, he can rest well in knowing his film provided the impetus for the regional efforts to take out the LRA for good.
Having been driven out of Uganda in 2005, the LRA’s numbers have dwindled to several hundred fighters. Kony, who is accused of regularly employing child soldiers and forcing women and girls alike into sexual slavery, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.
He is currently believed to be hiding in the Central African Republic.
While funding for the AU mission remains problematic, American soldiers who were deployed to the region by US President Barack Obama last year are likely to assist in bringing Kony to justice.