I’m not alone in my criticism. Many share my concerns and have their own too, and I am pleased to see an explosion in the amount of ongoing discussion. A brief reading list for anyone who wants to understand what’s going on:
Joseph Kony and Crowdsourced Intervention – Jack McDonald, Kings of War – McDonald, of the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, writes about the challenges of cooperation between states in Central Africa, and about what role public opinion should have in conflict management and military affairs.
For Uganda, ‘justice’ is complicated – Salvator Cusimano & Sima Atri, Globe and Mail – My good friends Salvator and Sima write on concrete ways to serve justice in Uganda.
Invisible Children founders posing with guns: an interview with the photographer – Elizabeth Flock, Washington Post – An interview with the woman who took the controversial photo of the founders of IC holding guns with the SPLA. Also quotes IC’s response to this photo.
Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things) – Michael Wilkerson, Foreign Policy – Wilkerson is a PhD candidate who has, importantly, lived and worked in Uganda. He’s concerned about the contents of the KONY 2012 film.
Stop #Kony2012. Invisible Children’s campaign of infamy – Angelo Opi-aiya Izama – Izama is a Ugandan journalist who says that to “call the campaign a misrepresentation is an understatement” and that the campaign is “disempowering” to African voices.
Kony2012; My response to Invisible Children’s campaign – Rosebell Kagumire – Kagumire is an award-winning Ugandan journalist and holds a Masters in Media, Peace and Conflict Studies from the University for Peace. In her video, she says: “The war is much more complex than one man called Joseph Kony.”
Joseph Kony 2012: growing outrage in Uganda over film – Mike Pflanz, The Telegraph – Pflanz sums up the Ugandan concerns about the campaign. He quotes Fred Opolot, spokesman for the Ugandan government, expressing the government’s concerns about the campaign.
Questions We Can Ask About Kony 2012 – Meg Nanson – I’m trying to keep my links to major publications, well-known journalists, and blogs written by those with expertise in the issues, but I feel that this is worth reading. Nanson is the founder of an NGO, and although her work is not linked to Africa, this post lists important questions that I’d encourage you to consider.
I’ll end with a long-ish quote from an interview Polly Curtis of the Guardian did with Arthur Larok, Action Aid’s director in Uganda:
“Many NGOs and the government, especially local government in the north, are about rebuilding and securing lives for children, in education, sanitation, health and livelihoods. International campaigning that doesn’t support this agenda is not so useful at this point. We have moved beyond that.
“There are conflicts in the north – several small conflicts over natural resources. Land is the major issue: after many years of displacement, there is quite a bit of land-related conflict.
“But many organisations and governments are focusing on this. We need to secure social stability, health and education. These are the priorities. This is what we’re trying to focus on. Poverty is high compared to the rest of the country. That’s the practical issue that needs to be addressed.
“I don’t think this is the best way. It might be an appeal that makes sense in America. But there are more fundamental challenges. Kony has been around for 25 years and over. I don’t think in the north at the moment that is really what is most important. It might be best on the internet and the like but, at the end of the day, there are more pressing things to deal with. If the Americans had wanted to arrest him, they would have done that a long time ago.
“At the moment I think the work of Invisible Children is about appealing to people’s emotions. I think that time has passed. Their reputation in the country is something that can be debatable. There is a strong argument generally about NGOs and their work in the north.
“The video would have been appealing in the last decade. Now we just need support for the recovery rather than all this international attention on this one point. Getting the facts right is most important for the international media. That would help the situation as it is.”
A bunch more articles to check out! Some of them were also in the last post I wrote.
I think action is a lot more important than awareness.
I don’t really believe that a single sentance can some up all the complications of war and profit and intention and emotion that surround the KONY 2012 campaign. So I have written two more in depth articles.
This one focuses on gathering together many of the problems and concerns associated with the KONY 2012 Campaign and Invisible Children, in addition to encouraging people to research organizations before they donate.
Most of all, I encourage you all to do your own research, and help in whichever way you feel best after concluding that research.
Some of the articles I read and found useful:
A collection of articles, convininetly gathered in one place, including ‘visible children’ and several of the others that were widly circulated. Many significant articles are not in my list because they’re already in this list.
Of coures, there are many, many other opinions and sources out there. These are just some I found useful.
How sharing the KONY 2012 video or putting up posters and wearing wrist bands will have any positive, lasting effect on the situation in Uganada.
First of all, I don’t think raising awareness in the west is as meaningful, or directly effects, improving the situation in Uganda. As I have said several times before, I don’t think awareness is very usefull unless it’s accompanied by positive action, and the actions the IC is encouraging don’t cut it to me.
Second of all, a large portion of the profits from the sales and donations received by IC go back towards makeing more videos and raising more awareness, although I admit, some goes directly into groundwork, not nearly as much as I would like.
Third of all, I think it is dangerous to perpetuate the idea that North Americans charity is the only way that the situation in Uganada will improve. Although I support non-profits and charities, I think they are only a part of the solution, and a video that portrays white men as coming in and promising to fix everything, seems damaging to me in some ways. In the same way, I think spreading a picture of how Uganada was 4 years ago, in some ways dissvalues the people and organizations, both foreign and Ugandan, which have been working hard to improve the situation there. I know that having a primarily negative video is more motivating for people, but I don’t like being emotionally manipulated, and I would like to see more Ugandan voices and Ugandan’s being empowered, isntead of being conveyed primarily as victims.
Just to be clear, since I’ve recieved this comment a lot, I DO support improving the situation in Uganada through various charities and non-profits. However I DO NOT suppport Invisible Children, because I don’t like the way they divide their funding, I DO NOT support sending more US troops in to Uganda, and I am concerned that their video perpetuates damaging stereotypes and gives a fairly one dimensional representation of the situation, that leads people to believe that the situation is much simpler then it actually is. However, for those of you who have researched and do agree with IC’s policies, and want to help fund them, I think that is great. I am more interested in encouraging people to research the charities they donate to and making their minds up for themselves then I am in changing their minds about the charities they have researched thoroughly already.
I DO support action. I just support, pausing and thinking critically and researching before diving in.
Last night I started to notice the KONY 2012 video popping up everywhere. I find this sort of thing extremely upsetting, so I didn’t look into it until today. There are a lot of problems with the KONY 2012 campaign, and Invisible Children as an organization that concern me. I have seen videos from Invisible Children in the past, but none that have gone viral the way this has. I believe that the creators of the video, and the people who are sharing it have good intentions. Here are some of my opinions on the matter.
First off, if you find the situation in Uganda upsetting I strongly encourage you to do further research into it. Here is a collection of articles about KONY 2012 and what’s happening in Uganda. Many of the articles I found throughout the day were gathered there, and they are mostly critical, rational analysis of the situation. There is a wealth of information out there, but those are some of the articles I found useful.
Second of all, please, whether you are considering giving to Invisible Children (or buy action kits and whatnot) or another charity, take the time to research them first. This way you can be sure you give your money to an organization who’s goals and practices are honorable.
Now I’ll be mostly summarizing points other people have brought up. If you want to go straight to those articles that’s great, but this is what I’ve come away with from my own research.
- Invisible Children’s financial information is available here because they’re a registered non-profit
- Out of approx $13 million dollars raised last year, over $1 million went to wages, another $1 million went to travel costs, and about $750,000 went to video production. Only about $3.5 went to direct aid, which is under 30%
- They have a 2/4 rank on accountability and transparency (link)
- IC has been investigated for fraud multiple times in the past
- The three main people between IC pay themselves about $80,000 salaries out of fund-raised money
- IC says they want to educate people, but their website has very little educational information, and their videos tend to be drastic simplifications of incredibly complex conflicts
- What credentials or understanding do these filmmakers have that make them experts on Uganda, or good teachers?
- Education and awareness, say they did achieve that, doesn’t really do any good to the people in Uganda who are actually suffering
- In addition, I stand by the opinion that awareness is not useful without being paired with positive actions, and I don’t feel the actions that IC is endorsing are positive (I’m not a fan of the more guns approach)
The Name ‘Invisible Children’
- Suggests that these children aren’t seen, when they are extremely visible to their communities, and all the people who have been working to improve the situation for them
- Further implies that they are invisible unless white North Americans see them
Problems with ‘Getting Kony Famous’
- The war in Sudan has been going on for 25+ years
- Kony is well known among political powers, and anyone who reads or watches news about what’s going on in that region
- Awareness =/= Change
- Why does the awareness of a bunch of white university students matter to the actual war that is going on?
What’s up with the Time-frame?
- Some footage is at least four years old
- Current situation is not accurately represented, currently the LRA is down to about 1000 scattered members, and there is not much activity
- Uganda is currently experiencing a more peaceful period
- This information is left out to emotionally manipulate people in to action, which is unethical in my opinion
Proposed Solution – Military Action (and buy our merch!)
- IC’s proposed solution is sending US troops into Uganda
- Previously troops have been sent in with the intentions to capture Kony, and the result was that he got away and slaughtered 900 people in retaliation
- Some types of peace negotiations have been made, military action would likely negate them
- The Ugandan Military has it’s own record of raping and looting, and yet IC defends and supports them, but I’m not buying the lesser of two evils shit
- Adding more military power in a war ravaged country seems like a bad move to me
- As previously mentioned, Uganda has been doing better lately, and things are not in the same state they were 4 years ago
- By leaving out any mention of positive progress made, or peace negotiations or the hard work the Ugandan people and other non-profits have put in, IC is discrediting them
- By focusing on the war, and encouraging more military action, they take attention away from developing sustainable infrastructure, education etc. in Uganda
Where are the Ugandan Perspectives?
- This video could have given voice to the Ugandan people, but it instead focuses on the white people
- I can hear white people talk about how bad things are all the time, that is not as interesting to me, they are not the ones who have to overcome this
- Ugandan people are largely treated like victims i the video, instead of showing a balance of the suffering, and the cases they have been empowered and have caused positive change
- Basically I would be more interested to hear their experience, than how white filmmakers see their experiences
- In the video Ugandans were treated like victims
- Uganda was portrayed as a war torn, impoverished, violent place, and nothing else (the nothing else is the problem, there are always multiple sides to things)
Manipulation and Making it Easy
- I personally disapprove of scare tactics when it comes to awareness, I don’t think it lasts
- Exaggerated facts and skewed time frames make me suspicious of the integrity of IC
- The actions that IC is suggesting maybe easy for everyone to do, but I don’t believe they are actually useful actions, raising money for IC is inefficient if they only pas 30% along, and military action may cause more harm, even if well intentioned
- In addition, LRA and Kony are only one piece of what’s going on in Uganda
- Catching Kony will unfortunately not make everything magically better
The Failures of a ‘Good vs. Bad’ Story
- The simplified story painted portrays a clear good and bad side, it is not like that, in fact, this is just one piece of the much larger picture of what’s going on in that region
- Taking down Kony is desirable, but have you considered that he is protected by an army of children
- Much of LRA is made of children who have been psychologically and physical tortured – they are both victims and perpetrators
- It is easy to say that the crimes committed are still unforgivable, until you consider it being your brother or sister or child who was abducted and forced to kill and gunpoint
- The Uganda Army which IC supports has been accused of inhumane acts as well, and, in my opinion, should not be treated as the ‘good’ side, or given additional military power
What’s the Full Picture?
- Too nuanced and complex to be able to understand from a 30 minute video/
So the Moral Is?
- If you want to give to charity that’s great! Do your research first!
- 25+ year conflicts are complicated, and hard to understand and accept, we should not do them the disservice of simplifying them
- Do your research before forwarding viral videos, no matter how well meaning you are.
- Mostly, just do your research and think critically.