The International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor voiced confidence Saturday that fugitive Ugandan rebel chief Joseph Kony will be arrested this year, praising the role of a viral online campaign.
Luis Moreno-Ocampo said the California-based Invisible Children group, and its 30-minute "Kony 2012" video seen by more than 100 million people, had helped bring more pressure to capture the alleged war criminal.
"Invisible Children will I think produce the arrest of Joseph Kony this year," said Moreno-Ocampo, after meeting the makers of the video -- a sequel to which is set to be released in the next few days -- in Los Angeles.
"That is the impact of the campaign. The Invisible Children movie is adding the social interest that the institutions need to achieve results," he added. "We need this... attention to make the political leaders interested."
Kony, originally from Uganda, is wanted by the Hague-based ICC for leading a grim campaign of rape, mutilation and murder, kidnapping boys to serve as child soldiers and girls as sex slaves.
The manhunt across Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and South Sudan has been given new impetus by the Kony 2012 campaign. The United States sent 100 special forces to help last year.
The African Union said Friday it was boosting coordination between armies in the four countries to find Kony. Uganda is due to take the lead in running the 5,000-strong joint force.
Moreno-Ocampo said the fugitive head of the Lord's Resistance Army is believed to be hunkered down somewhere in the Central African Republic, protected by a 300-strong rebel force.
And he stressed it was important that Kony be brought to justice rather than be killed in an attempt to capture him.
"With the support of the US, the planning will be different and the support including helicopters will be different," said the ICC prosecutor, adding: "It's not about killing soldiers, it's about arresting Joseph Kony."
"I don't think US troops will do it. Ugandan troops, supported by the US working with the Central African Republic, they will do it," he said.
"I hope he's arrested... because putting him on trial will make a difference," he said, adding that a trial was important because "you demystify him, you expose his crimes."
Once arrested, it would likely take two to three years for him to come to trial, he added.
Invisible Children plans to release a sequel to the viral video, called "Kony 2012 Part 2," this week, in theory on Tuesday although that is not yet final, said the group's Jedidiah Jenkins.
Then on April 20 they are marshaling armies of young people to spend a night putting up posters "in every street (and) in every city everywhere" in a "Cover the Night" event.
Celebrities including Jay-Z, Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna and Taylor Swift have helped spread the message by tweeting their support for the video, which Jenkins said had now been seen by 130 million people worldwide.
Invisible Children has been criticized by some for over-simplifying Kony's story, while questions have also been raised about its finances.
Its co-founder and the narrator of the 30-minute video, Jason Russell, is recovering from a mental breakdown early in March following the sudden massive attention for the video and campaign.
Russell, 33, was taken to hospital after being found naked running in the street, slapping the sidewalk, interfering with traffic and screaming, according to police in San Diego, where Invisible Children is based.
Source: AFP Global Edition