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Fame Alone Will Not End Impunity

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The social media campaign Kony 2012 has met with tremendous success. Their website and documentary chronicles the suffering of Uganda's many thousand child soldiers, and details the crimes of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army.

The campaign's stated objective is to make the relatively unknown Joseph Kony 'famous' as the "world's worst war criminal". There is a good case to be made for this claim, and it is hoped that with his new-found fame Kony will also find an increased international determination to seem him tracked down, arrested, and put before the International Criminal Court (ICC) where he has been wanted since 2005.

The campaign has not been without its critics. Some focus on the financials of Invisible Children, the campaign's organisers, others on the undeniable complexity of the conflict in Uganda and the suspected crimes of the Ugandan Army that has been enlisted to capture Kony.

Nevertheless, the campaign is undoubtedly well on its way to making Kony famous, and that cannot be a bad thing. Unfortunately, the recent history of the ongoing campaign to end impunity by bringing the world's worst war criminals to justice has made one thing clear: making a war criminal famous is only half the challenge.

Take Omar al-Bashir, the President of Sudan. Like Kony, Bashir is also wanted by the ICC, where he faces charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. His crimes were all perpetrated during the conflict in Darfur, the brutality of which is well known thanks in part to other successful documentaries and social media campaigns.

Unlike Kony, however, Bashir is neither hard to find nor unknown. While Kony continues to evade arrest by hiding deep in impenetrable terrain, Bashir maintains a prominent public profile as the President of Sudan. Sudan is not a party to the ICC, and is therefore not required to execute the ICC's warrant for his arrest, but Bashir also travels extensively elsewhere in Africa and the Middle East. Since his arrest warrant was issued by the ICC he has seen new and returning Heads of State sworn in to office in Chad and Djibouti; attended the promulgation of Kenya's new constitution; attended a regional summit in Malawi; and met with officials in Egypt, Qatar, and Libya. He was even invited to, but did not attend, an African Union Summit in Uganda. Unlike Sudan, some of these States are parties to the ICC, and are therefore required to help to Court execute its arrest warrants. Regrettably they have all refused, and Bashir remains at large.

Raising awareness of Kony and his crimes is surely a good thing. For one, it reminds us to remember his many victims. Unfortunately, however, making war criminals famous is clearly not enough. Without a greater international determination to facilitate the arrest these criminals, and greater public pressure on those who refuse to do so, Kony might simply find he has become just another famous fugitive.