I have posted about Kony 2012 twice before: once pointing out the posters that have adorned my Loyola University campus since last fall, and once as a news story people should consider following this year.
On March 5, the culmination of guerrilla advertising efforts went viral with the 30 minute feature film on the Kony 2012 movement by Invisible Children. Instantly Facebook News Feeds were swamped with the video, people have been changing their profile pictures to "Kony 2012" photos and it has been a trending topic on Twitter for over two days. In the first 24 hours after the campaign broke loose, I was invited to three separate events on April 20th, 2012- the day designated by Invisible Children as "Cover the Night", where activists will put major efforts into putting Kony's name and photo as visible as possible in order to draw attention to the issue.
So what is this all about? Here is a little back story:
Who is Joseph Kony, and what has he done?
In the late 1980's, current Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni "toppled the regime" of Tito Okello, and attempted to take control of the northern part of Uganda, which was heavily supportive of Okello. Several resistance groups in this region began to form, the most resilient of which was Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Since then, the LRA terrorized Northern Uganda, abducting children, making them into child soldiers and forcing them to commit acts of violence or making them into sex slaves. In recent years, he has fled Uganda, and is thought to be in hiding somewhere in the Central African Republic. He is also at the top of the International Criminal Court's most wanted list, among other members of the LRA, for crimes against humanity.
The organization behind Kony 2012: Invisible Children
Invisible Children was started by three young filmmakers Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poolein 2006. The three originally went to Africa in 2003 to film the genocide in Sudan, but when they caught wind of Kony's child soldiers, they moved their efforts to Uganda. After coming back to the United States, in 2005 they released the movie "Invisible Children: Rough Cut", which documented the abductions and life in Northern Uganda, and started Invisible Children in 2006 as a not-for-profit. They began touring around the country (primarily in colleges and universities) to spread the word of these atrocities. In fall of 2011, because of Invisible Children's efforts, President Obama announced he would be sending a small number of U.S. troops into Uganda in order to help the military there capture Kony and disable the LRA.
What is Invisible Children aiming to do with Kony 2012?
Invisible Children is planning on targeting 20 cultural icons as well as 12 policy-makers in order to raise awareness and action, in order to arrest Kony and bring him to trial at the Hague (the international crimes court in the Netherlands). In the video, they point out that now the United States has gotten involved, Kony has changed his tactics and is still evading capture. Their goal is to keep the issue on the mind of America so the United States will keep its troops in Uganda, in order to help the Ugandan military and arrest Kony in the year 2012. After, they hope to continue their rebuilding efforts through constructing schools and reuniting families.
Criticisms of the movement
However, Kony 2012 has not been without its critics. Many have pointed out that only 32% of the funds raised from donations to Invisible Children go to actual rebuilding efforts; most funding goes towards payroll, travel expenses and film-making efforts. In addition, Invisible Children refuses to be externally audited, which gives them only a 2 out of 4 rating in accountability and transparency by Charity Navigator. Outside of their business practices, many have raised concerns that the video manipulates the situation to seem worse than it is: Kony is no longer active in Uganda and the LRA only has a few hundred active members currently, which the Foreign Affairs committee says is a small part of a far larger problem. Additionally, many have also said that this video simplifies the complexity of the conflict in Uganda, and that pursuing Kony through supporting the Ugandan military (which also has been accused of abuses, such as raping and looting) will only fuel the fire of conflict in the region. Though none of these critics believe that Kony should not be arrested and stopped, most say there may be better methods to capture him, as well as better charities to give money to in order to ensure proper aid is getting to the region. Find more about these critiques through the links below.
Want to read more? Here are some links that help explain what Invisible Children is about, what the conflict is about and what the critiques of this movement are:
- Visible Children: "We got trouble"
- Foreign Affairs Committee: "Obama Takes on the LRA"
- Charity Watch: "The Best Way to Assist in Providing Emergency Relief in Uganda"
- Foreign Policy: Joseph Kony is not in Uganda (and other complicated things)
- The Daily What: On Kony 2012
- Voice of America: UN Congo Report Released Amid Protest From Uganda, Rwanda
- Washington Post: Invisible Children responds to criticisms about 'Stop Kony' campaign
- Invisible Children: About
- Charity Navigator: Invisible Children
- Washington Post: Ugandans criticize anti-Kony video campaign sensation for simplifying a complicated history
- Invisible Children: Our Story
Any other links you think we should include? What are your thoughts on the Invisible Children Kony 2012 movement? Let us know! Comment below, send us a tweet @Chicago_U, post on our Facebook wall.