Consider accuracy in KONY 2012
Invisible Children is a non-profit organization started by three college age men to raise awareness about Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army.
I would like to preface this article by saying that I am in no way saying that Invisible Children is a fundamentally bad organization. I believe they are fighting for a noble and absolutely heart-wrenching cause. The purpose of this article is express why I will not be sporting Invisible Children apparel or jumping on the KONY 2012 bandwagon.
If you are unfamiliar with the organization, Invisible Children is a non-profit organization started by three college age men to raise awareness about Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army. Kony has built himself an empire of terror in Uganda by kidnapping roughly 30,000 children over the course of 26 years and forcing them to fight in his army.
The KONY 2012 movement was launched by Invisible Children to raise awareness and ultimately -stop Kony,-- something that does need to happen. However, while the video ultimately has good intentions, a lot of the information given is very misleading.
First of all, if you asked most people where they believe Joseph Kony is currently abducting children they would probably respond with -Uganda.-- Wrong. Kony was chased out of Uganda in 2006 and other than a very small region in the north, the country has been celebrating freedom from his reign ever since.
The only mention of this detail in the video is at 15:01 when the narrator says:
"As the LRA began to move into other countries, Jacob [one of the children filmed in Northern Uganda in 2003] and other Ugandans came to the U.S. to speak on behalf of all people suffering because of Kony. Even though Uganda was relatively safe they felt compelled to tell the world that Kony was still out there and had to be stopped."
What they fail to mention is that the reason Kony has moved from Uganda is not because Kony grew strong enough to expand his realm, but rather it is because he is hiding in the jungle, licking his well-deserved war wounds. Since he was chased out of Uganda, the number of abductions has dropped.
"Now, I understand that films and awareness is really what they are about, not direct aid... However, I would rather give my money to an organization whose primary focus is to provide relief and recovery to those affected." --Elise Porter, '11 alumna
Secondly, if you asked someone how big Kony's army is, they would probably tell you it contained thousands of children. This is also incorrect. This idea would stem from the figure given in the film, 30,000, which, is not a lie. Over the course of nearly 30 years Joseph Kony has abducted around 30,000 children. However, a more recent count would put the actual number of children under his control in the hundreds.
Obviously, these inaccuracies do not make Kony's crimes any less detestable. They do however make me hesitant to support the organization. In a good portion of the film, the context is the narrator explaining Kony's crimes to his young son.
Now, I am not going to lie, the kid is really cute. And, seeing him make declarations like -Daddy, we need to stop him!-- is empowering. But, if I am going to be giving my money and public support to an organization, I don't want an explanation of their cause that is meant for an audience with the comprehension of a 4-year-old.
Another unfortunate detail left out of the films is the tarnished history of the Ugandan army. Over the years, the Ugandan army has been guilty of many of the same crimes Kony commits. These crimes include, looting of natural resources, and the formation of prostitution rings involving girls as young as 12. Why is this such a problem? Because Invisible Children defends and works closely with the Ugandan army.
Even though I understand that Invisible Children is primarily an aid-based organization, I am still not fond of the fact that of the over $8,000,000 they spent last year, only about a third was spent on direct aid. Of the remaining money, $1,000,000 was spent on travel alone, with more overall money going to awareness programs and apparel than Africa itself.
Now, I understand that films and awareness is really what they are about, not direct aid. Truth be told, they do an excellent job with their films and awareness programs. However, I would rather give my money to an organization whose primary focus is to provide relief and recovery to those affected. Not one that spends extra money on making really cool T-shirts.
Overall, Invisible Children is a good organization. Do I wish they were more straightforward with the details of what is actually going on in Africa? Absolutely. But, they are doing good work. Someone needed to stand up for those kids, and they did. However, unless they make some changes in the way they inform the public and spend their money, my support will be going elsewhere.
Elise Porter is an '11 FC alumna, and a former staff member of The Feather. She now attends George Fox University.
For more columns, read the March 10 article, From fear to freedom.