One man’s name was on everybody’s lips in the UK (and worldwide) last week – Joseph Kony.
His name spread worldwide after a campaign video, made by the organisation Invisible Children, went viral. The video depicts Kony as one of the most evil men in the world, aimlessly terrorising northern Uganda using violence, rape, mutilation, and captivating children and turning them into child soldiers. By using emotive language and imagery the video managed to move the hearts of nearly 50 million people.
At the beginning of the week the general public was ready to do whatever it took to stop Kony, but then the campaign quickly began to fall apart. Questions regarding the Invisible Children organisation were being raised and Kony 2012 is being labeled as nothing more than a money making scam.
As more information was revealed more confusion developed and everybody is wondering what is really going on. In this special Pappzd Magazine feature, we take a look at some of the facts and break down the issue so that you can make an informed decision on where you stand.
Who is Joseph Kony?
Joseph Kony (pronounced Con) is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan guerrilla group formed in 1986 whose main aim is to fight against the current Ugandan government. The LRA are religiously motivated as they seek to establish a government in Uganda based on the Ten Commandments.
Since the beginning of their formation they have allegedly abducted an estimated 66,000 children and turned them into child soldiers. The LRA’s actions have not been restrained to Uganda, but also Southern Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. In October 2005 the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Kony accusing him of committing crimes against humanity.
Who are Invisible Children?
Invisible Children is a non-profit organisation that initially began as a ‘film making adventure’ for Americans Jason Russell, Laren Poole, and Bobby Bailey in 2003. The trio filmed their first documentary The Invisible Children: Rough Cut in 2005 and became an official non-profit organisation in 2006. The main aim of this organisation is to use the power of the media to spread awareness about the alleged atrocities of Kony and the LRA.
Invisible Children’s latest campaign, KONY 2012, seeks to ‘make Kony famous’ i.e raise awareness about what he is doing in northern Uganda. Invisible Children want to use the power of the media and the influence of celebrities and politicians to stop Kony via military intervention. They believe that if more attention is brought to the problem, society and politicians will be more compelled to bring the LRA to an end. Their campaign and video urges everyone to sign a pledge to bring him to justice, and to plaster his face across nations on 20 April 2012 via posters, stickers, and banners.
Urban British celebrity reaction
Following the release of the KONY 2012 video there was a strong reaction from many global celebrities. Unfortunately we can’t say the same with British urban celebs. Only a handful actually tweeted about the campaign.
We would think with big American celebs such as Rihanna and P.Diddy spreading awareness more British urban celebs would as well, but clearly that wasn’t the case. In fact celebs have started to poke jokes at the whole situation.
The visible problem with Invisible Children: Is it all a scam?
Although initially greeted with open arms, the Kony 2012 campaign is going through some serious backlash. It was revealed that only 31% of the proceedings that Invisible Children raise go to the actual cause, and many websites claim that the organisation use the rest of the profits on elaborate film making and jet-setting.
Not only are the public questioning how donations are used, but they are also beginning to question the northern Uganda dilemma itself. Many are speculating whether the problem in northern Uganda has been oversimplified and exaggerated in the Kony 2012 video, as the problem has been going on for over 20 years and the worst of the war has passed. The criticisms towards Invisible Children are nothing new, and the intentions of the organisation have been questioned since as afar back as 2006.
Further exacerbating the reputation of Invisible Children is a video of an interview with Kony that has been posted on major sites such as WorldStarHipHop and Bossip, where Kony claims that he is not the real enemy but instead blames the Ugandan government and their use of propaganda to tarnish him, stating that he would ‘never harm his own brothers and sisters.’
The final nail in the coffin for Invisible Children was when the above picture of the founders posing with the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was spread online, as this group has been associated with using rape as a weapon of war.
Response to criticism
Jedidiah Jenkins, Director of Idea Development for Invisible Children, has publicly defended the organisation against all the criticism it is currently facing. Speaking on how they distribute their donations, Jenkins has said that the organisation spends 37% (not 31%) of its profits on its African related programs, 20% on salaries for the team they employ and the remaining 43% of their profits go to their awareness programs. Jenkins also makes it clear that Invisible Children is not an aid organisation saying
I think people think we’re over there delivering shoes or food. But we are an advocacy and awareness organization… [but] We’re in this because we love it, because this is the job of our dreams.
Speaking on how exactly they [Invisible Children] spend their donations she said:
Of the 37% of funds that go to central Africa, I’d say about 30 percent goes toward energizing Uganda. We have 12 partner schools we rebuilt from the ground up; we have 1,000 kids whose secondary school we pay for; we have several hundred kids in college and mentors for all of them.
We have a program called Mend in which we teach former sex slaves to be seamstresses. There’s also our Village Savings and Loan Association, through which we teach villagers how to become their own bank, because there’s not a lot of trust for banks there. On top of that, we have literacy programs.
Having read all the facts, it is now up to YOU to decide what you think. I cannot hold a firm opinion on whether Invisible Children is a scam or not, whether they are making a difference or not, but one solid fact that shall remain is that Kony is not a saint.
He has been killing, torturing, and terrorising northern Uganda for over 20 years. Why this has all of a sudden come to the media’s attention is questionable and would lead to a completely different discussion. I cannot tell you to donate or not donate money, to join or not join this campaign, but what I can tell you is to educate yourself and others.
Learn the facts, read the history, and then take it from there.