In an election year, US Senators are taking an intense interest in the arrest of reclusive African warlord, Joseph Kony, following a video that went viral in March. But is he any closer to being brought to justice?
"The noose is beginning to tighten," said Senator Johnny Isakson. He was referring to a planned move to expand the US State Department's 'rewards for justice' program, enabling it to pay for information on individuals wanted by any international criminal tribunal for war crimes or genocide.
One such individual is the elusive Joseph Kony. Accused of terrorizing northern Uganda for two decades, he is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. It is alleged that he abducts children in order to use them as fighters and sex slaves, and is said to like hacking off limbs.
Kony and his rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army, were ejected from northern Uganda in 2005. Together with a few hundred followers, he is believed to be roaming the remote jungle straddling the borders of Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. The US declared the LRA a terrorist organisation in 2001.
Viral Kony video
Kony was not a household name until the film "Kony 2012" became an Internet sensation last month racking up more than 100 million hits in six days on social media after it was first posted. The video called for Kony's capture.
The filmmakers, the US-based advocacy group Invisible Children, have since released a follow-up which seeks to address the charge of over-simplification that was levelled at the first film.
Some commentators expressed outrage that the film did not contextualize the footage or explain that LRA attacks ended in Uganda in 2006.
The follow-up "Kony 2012 Part II Beyond Famous" details how Kony's forces operated in South Sudan and the Central African Republic, something that was mentioned only briefly in the first video.
US lawmakers have publicly denounced Joseph Kony as "evil" or "a madman". In October of last year US President Obama sent around 100 troops to Uganda to advise on how to track down Joseph Kony.
Yet lawmakers are conscious of a slippery slope when dispatching combat troops as military advisers. The Vietnam War and the disastrous US involvement in Somalia in the 1990s still weigh heavily.
Senator Johnny Isakson travelled to central Africa earlier this month to meet those latest military advisers. He said African and US forces were closer to finding Kony than they have ever been, adding that one of the most promising moves was the distribution of leaflets in the region offering amnesty to those who supply information about Kony's whereabouts. The senator also praised the Ugandan leadership for providing troops to search for Kony.
This highlights one of the concerns about the recent heightened interest in Kony; it could end up bringing support to the regime of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, which faces allegations of human rights abuses.
But why has Joseph Kony been able to elude capture for so long? Ashley Benner works for Project Enough in Washington. "Unfortunately we haven't seen any commitment by the regional governments and militaries to capture Kony and his top commanders," she told DW.
"There's also a lack of real-time intelligence, logistical capabilities to get troops to where they need to be quickly, but the primary factor has been a lack of commitment."
Author: Mark Caldwell (Reuters, dpa, AP)
Editor: Susan Houlton