Kony 2012 was a viral video that made rounds last 2012 all over the internet. It was a 28-minute film showing children in Africa who were being kidnapped to be rebel soldiers by Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. The video gained over 21 million hits but despite its popularity, it was faced with criticisms as well. The film was of a Hollywood production level and this helped the film’s success proliferate. It has became famous not only in YouTube but also in Twitter. The hashtag #stopkony has become well-known all around the globe.
In a nutshell, Kony 2012 was a video made by a charity organization called Invisible Children. Basically, the short film featured children abducted by LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) led by Joseph Kony. It is assumed that he has abducted about 60,000 children. Upon abduction, Kony brainwashes the boys to fight for him. Meanwhile, girls are made into sex slaves and those who do not comply are killed. LRA has been slaughtering thousands of people and it is their trademark to hack off the lips of their victims. Since 2005, Kony has been wanted by the international criminal court for crimes against humanity. By 2008, LRA was designated to be a terrorist group by the United States and it has been proactively joining the Ugandan military to capture and kill Kony.
With such huge revelations, the video surely attracted a lot of criticisms aside from support. It is said to be questionable why the movie was targeting US leaders instead of African leaders. Also, why did the film fail to address that the Ugandan government in itself has a poor human rights record? Soon enough, myths about Kony 2012 were debunked and shed more light to the advocacy of Invisible Children.
According to Michael Wilkerson, a journalist whose works were mostly at Uganda, it has been 20 years of Kony’s abductions and mass murder in Uganda but currently, Kony is not in Uganda anymore. He is already off the radar for six years. The LRA still exists but they have lessened in number from a reported 30,000 to 60,000 child soldiers. As a matter of fact, it is highly probable that these figures refer to the number of their abductees and not their troops. The LRA still cause hardships but their force has weakened. The LRC is not in Uganda anymore too but they are now in South Sudan, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Also, while it is true that Obama has authorized 100 US army advisers being deployed to help track down Kony, he results of which are still unknown.
Meanwhile, there is also the account of Arthur Larok, who was previously the director of programs in the Uganda National NGO Forum. He said that while Invisible Children is a legitimate international NGO that caters to the documentation of children’s lives that are constantly threatened. While their production about Kony may have been effective if they released it a decade ago, it simply won’t matter that much now. As said earlier, Kony has already left Uganda. Larok believes that the Invisibile Children is merely campaigning their cause by targeting the emotions of their audience. This has proven to be effective but the issue in Uganda is not on Kony now and it is long obsolete. Currently, what’s more useful to campaign for are education, health, livelihood, and sanitation for the children. Those are the priorities instead of Kony’s past abductions and currently existing land-related conflict.
In another note, John Vidal, an editor of the Guardian, did his own research on the financial background of Invisible Children. The organization has produced and released a total of 11 films and they have been touring around the United States to raise awareness. In Uganda, they have given scholarships to 750 children and they have been active in rebuilding schools in Uganda and Central Africa. Their accounts actually show that they obtain a lot of money from the donations given to them. It is said that of its income amounting to $8.8 million, almost 25% goes to film-making costs including travel. Only 30% actually goes to their programs and the rest go to the salaries of their employees and Washington lobbyists. Then of course, a considerable amount also goes to their office space rent. A charity evaluator named Charity Navigator rates Invisible Children with only 2 stars because they currently do not have five voting members on the evaluator’s board of directors. They used to have 4 stars and Invisible Children says they are working to regain that.
Even the merchandise of Invisible Children raised criticisms. Searching in Ebay, you will find Kony posters, phone covers, t-shirts, and keyrings to name a few. Hundreds of Kony items are actually sold in Ebay. The negative side of this is that it is not clear where the profits of these items would go. The sellers are clearly not related officially to Invisible Children and it is very easy to use the organization’s cause for their own profit.
In a positive sense, there are still the supporters of the Kony 2012 campaign. Ida Sawyer from the Human Rights watch has been constantly complimenting the work of Invisible Children. Through the campaign of Invisible Children, it is ensured that the Ugandan army would have the drive to be motivated in pursuing Kony. Also, through the support of the United States and their troops, there is a greater chance of capturing Kony and defeating the LRA which has not happened for 25 years because the Ugandan army in itself has human rights issues internally. The presence of the US army could help make sure that the Ugandan army would not commit abuse.
Also, there is Jacob Acaye’s account who is a former abductee. He debunks the comments that the issue portrayed in Kony 2012 is outdated. He says that after all, the fighting and suffering still goes on. It is a silent war people do not know about.
There are a lot of opposing views towards the Kony 2012 campaign but it is up to us to decide where we want to put our sympathy and money for donations. It is also our responsibility to keep ourselves updated and vigilant to organizations promoting different causes. Choose wisely.