Leaked emails reveal that Angelina Jolie volunteered to honeytrap Joseph Kony
When #Kony2012 swept the internet back in (you guessed it) 2012, keyboard warriors worldwide came alive with a well intentioned desire to bring a notorious African warlord to justice. The film, which was produced by the American charity Invisible Children, brought international attention to the issue of child abduction and enslavement by the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan guerrilla group headed by Joseph Kony, which has operated across Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Within a week of being put online, the 30 minute video had been viewed 100 million times.
Fast forward five years, however, and Kony is no closer to being caught; he is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on 12 charges of crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and sexual enslavement, as well as 21 war crimes charges, including intentionally directing an attack against civilians and the forced enlistment of child soldiers. But could a Hollywood superstar actually have stood more chance of success in entrapping this infamous criminal?
It reads like a plot from a movie. A glamorous Hollywood actress snaring one of the world’s most wanted men in a Special Forces-backed honeytrap, freeing a whole hoard of abducted children in the process. But according to leaked emails between the former ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Morena Ocampo and actress Angelina Jolie, it appears it may have almost happened in real life. In 2012, the A-lister, who is known for her humanitarian work, offered to act as the bait in a honeytrap by inviting Joseph Kony to dine with her. From the course of the emails, it is revealed that the plan would have been to embed Jolie, and possibly Pitt, in the area where Kony was believed to be holed up. Special forces troops would be nearby, enabling an arrest.
The revelation, which appears in a cache of 40,000 documents obtained by the French investigative website Mediapart shown to the Sunday Times, also highlights Moreno Ocampo’s belief in and desire to move forward with the plan: “Forget other celebrities, she is the one,” he states. “She loves to arrest Kony. She is ready. Probably Brad will go also.” Of course, Jolie wouldn’t be the first Hollywood icon to become involved in undercover activities. Greta Garbo was reportedly a spy for the MI6 during the 1940s, while Frank Sinatra acted as a courier between the CIA and the mafia, according to his own daughter. It was also revealed in the documents that Moreno Ocampo asked fellow A-lister George Clooney to spy on Lybia’s General Gadaffi, which he politely declined.
Alas, in Angelina's case, it was too good a plot to be true. After a slew of emails where Moreno Ocampo appears to become progressively more infatuated with the actress and calls on her judgement in other cases, including passing her a confidential document, the dinner is never mentioned again. Communications end a little bluntly, with Jolie’s assistant responding simply to say that she has changed her personal email address.
Today, Kony is believed to be hiding somewhere in South Sudan or the Central African Republic. If ever you need proof that you should strike while the iron is hot, he is no longer actively being searched for by the USA or Uganda, after the two countries each declared an end to their efforts to catch or kill him in May 2017. It is estimated that the LRA’s fighting forces have shrunk considerably, down to around 100 soldiers. As such, they are no longer considered a threat to regional security. With many of his commanders captured or killed, there has been little solid information as to his whereabouts for years. Consequently, Kony has slipped off of the priority list.
Regardless of how fanciful “the actress and the child-abductor” plotline may be, the Kony 2012 campaign has fared little better. In the aftermath of the video being launched online, critics raised serious questions of Invisible Children, including on how they spend the funds that they raise and their “condescending” portrayals of the people at the heart of the stories they campaign on. Among the biggest criticisms, was the focus on Uganda in the film: “There has not been a single soul from the LRA here since 2006. Now we have peace, people are back in their homes, they are planting their fields, they are starting their businesses. That is what people should help us with” said Dr Beatrice Mpora, director of Kairos, a community health organisation, in an interview with The Telegraph.
Nonetheless, Invisible Children’s website continues to claim that: “Joseph Kony’s army continues to be the primary threat to many communities across central Africa”. Whether they are out of touch or are just trying to ride the success of a video that went viral five years ago is unclear. But one thing is certain: five years after Kony first came to widespread international attention, we are further away than ever from catching him and bringing him before The Hague, even despite the efforts of 100 million outraged keyboard warriors and the offers of a Hollywood honeytrap.
Before you get too doom-and-gloom about it all though, remember that just because this viral campaign didn’t work it doesn't mean others won’t. It was recently revealed that the "Ice Bucket Challenge" inspired more than $100 million in donations to the ALS Association, money which has now contributed to a research breakthrough that identified a new gene, which may lead to new treatment options. So we should continue to make big issues famous.