KONY 2012 – Why the Campaign is a Sham
Social media has been an effective tool in creating awareness for a particular subject or cause and the first instinct many would have is to share which inevitably contribute to its virality. The problem here is, what is a million share when most do not even understand the background or research enough in knowing what exactly they are sharing; and once shared, what’s next?
What is KONY 2012 Campaign?
The KONY 2012 campaign – a campaign started by Invisible Children, a non-profit organization – is aimed at utilizing social media and guerilla activism to promote Joseph Kony, not as an idol but as a criminal who needed to be made known by as many people as possible so as to create awareness about the atrocities caused by the man with the sole purpose of capturing him and bringing him to trial for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court.
I was moved by the KONY 2012 campaign but being the analytical person that I am, I decided to research more into the organization behind it, to ascertain that what I am supporting is really going towards the capture of Joseph Kony, or at least assist in creating a constructive solution to end this madness.
Who is Joseph Kony?
Joseph Kony is a Ugandan leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a man notorious for using kids as child soldiers, bodyguards and sex slaves and whom he claimed was inspired by God to impose the biblical Ten Commandments onto the communities in his homeland.
Read more in detail about Kony here. An excerpt:
“The LRA rebels currently number as little as several hundred, a fraction of their strength at their peak, but still include a core of hardened fighters infamous for mutilating civilians and abducting children.
The LRA wages its private war in the border regions of northern Uganda and South Sudan, spilling over into the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
Kony’s fighters have been accused of murder, rape, torture and sexual enslavement. Reports say they have massacred civilians inside churches, forced them off cliffs, burned them alive and even made them eat dead bodies.”
Who is Invisible Children (IC)?
Based on their website,
“We are a movement seeking to end this conflict and bring them home. We seek to rebuild schools, educate future leaders, and provide jobs in Northern Uganda. We are the motivated misfits and massess redefining what it means to be an activist.”
Based on an article by the Canadian The Globe and Mail:
“The group Invisible Children’s aim is to make Joseph Kony famous, so that in 2012 he can be finally brought to justice. The group asks supporters to join a pledge that reads “Joseph Kony is one of the world’s worst war criminals and I support the international effort to arrest him, disarm the LRA and bring the child soldiers home.”
It also invites people to buy an advocacy kit for $30. “People will think you’re an advocate of awesome,” the Invisible Children web site explains. The kit includes: t-shirt, KONY bracelet, stickers, button, and posters. “You can decorate yourself and the town with this one-stop shop.”
Why KONY 2012 is misleading?
1. Joseph Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006. What you are seeing in the video are events that occur several years ago!
An award winning Ugandan journalist puts this in perspective:
“To call the campaign a misrepresentation is an understatement. While it draws attention to the fact that Kony, indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2005, is still on the loose, it’s portrayal of his alleged crimes in Northern Uganda are from a bygone era. At the height of the war between especially 1999 and 2004, large hordes of children took refuge on the streets of Gulu town to escape the horrors of abduction and brutal conscription to the ranks of the LRA. Today most of these children are semi-adults. Many are still on the streets unemployed. Gulu has the highest numbers of child prostitutes in Uganda. It also has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis.”
Most recently, as quoted below by the Telegraph,
“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. – Dr Beatrice Mpora, director of Kairos, a community health organisation in Gulu, a town that was once the centre of the rebels’ activities”
2. The LRA currently is weak and its forces reduced to less than 200 fighters. Contrary to what the video implied, the LRA is not expanding but rather moving into neighbouring countries to evade capture.
According to an NGO in Uganda, he wrote in 2006:
“And back to Uganda. Uganda is no longer experiencing violence from the LRA. Yes, I said it. It’s an uncomfortable truth, but it is a truth. For about the last year, since before IC hit the scene, Kony and his troops have been pushed into Congo, into the Garamba National Forest there. He’s sick, starving, and on his last legs. For the first time, Uganda is in the middle of real peace talks and the rebels have laid down their arms and are assembling to make peace. Why? This is happening because Joseph Kony was defeated. The Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) has beaten them back and Kony was sitting in Congo starving to death.”
3. The IC is a big advocator of military intervention and makes a fairly large point about sending money to the UPDF – the very military that have their fair share of human right abuses including rape and looting and the plundering of many village resources and if you donate, you are indirectly funding these atrocities!
You can read the views of a writer about the IC and crowd-sourced intervention here. An excerpt:
“Raising the profile of the heinous nature of the guy’s crimes is awesome. The idea that popular opinion can be leveraged with viral marketing to induce foreign military intervention is really, really dangerous. It is immoral to try and sell a sanitised vision of foreign intervention that neglects the fact that people will die as a result. That goes for politicians as much as for Jason Russell.”
As shown in Point 1, Kony is not in Uganda and Congo has restricted the UPDF from entering into its territories so what is the point? A clearer perspective from Visible Children author:
“The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.”
4. Being an NPO, they are required by law to publicly post their financial statements. According to IC themselves, only 31% of all their funds go toward actually helping anyone. The rest goes into compensation costs to the three people in management of which they received a combined pay of $262,287 in 2011 or 2.93% of expenses, their travel expenses (> $1 million in 2010), funding of their film-making business (>$1 million in 2010) including production costs and purchase of film and computer equipment.
There are other kind of expenses that I personally feel should have been better used on long term community development over and above a slick film making gig.
Their financial statements are not audited. Of course some of you may say that there is an auditor’s note on the cover page written from the auditors themselves. That does not count. It is still regarded as an issue on transparency and accountability because the auditor was not overseen by an “external audit committee”, eg someone who is not on IC’s internal payroll to check the auditor’s work.
The problem here is that whenever such distressing campaign videos such as KONY 2012 captures the attention of the social media mass, it causes an emotional blackmail where everyone suddenly feel the need to do something, like take up arms to band together to raise money to support the cause without an inkling of an idea of who they are really donating to and to what extent are their donations being used for.
People are influenced easily by what the masses do to such effect that it causes a psychological reaction which makes each and everyone one of us feel compelled to join in the bandwagon else we risk being seen as ‘uncaring’. While I applaud the efforts of IC in creating awareness on this matter, such campaign is sadly only all there is to it. Sure, feel good for a minute but then, what’s next?
As the Daily What puts it:
“Sending money to a nonprofit that wants to muck things up by dousing the flames with fuel is not helping. Want to help? Really want to help? Send your money to nonprofits that are putting more than 31% toward rebuilding the region’s medical and educational infrastructure, so that former child soldiers have something worth coming home to.
Here are just a few of those charities. They all have a sparkling four-star rating from Charity Navigator, and, more importantly, no interest in airdropping American troops armed to the teeth into the middle of a multi-nation tribal war to help one madman catch another.
The bottom line is, research your causes thoroughly. Don’t just forward a random video to a stranger because a mass murderer makes a five-year-old “sad.” Learn a little bit about the complexities of the region’s ongoing strife before advocating for direct military intervention.”
On another note, here’s something to laugh at: