After the dust has seemingly settled on the overnight media frenzy that was “Kony 2012” we thought it a good moment to contribute to the mass of online information on the subject. Our aim in this post is to simply inform and empower those who have been moved by what they have seen in recent weeks, to be able to make wise choices about their response. Hopefully we can contribute to the conversation in a way that does not further dilute the real issues.
There have been many criticisms of the Invisible Children campaign and video, from those who have chosen to unpick IC’s financials, to those who have personally attacked the maker of the film Jason Russell. After the sad events of the weekend concerning Jason, we offer our best wishes and support as he recovers from what has clearly been an extremely draining and difficult period. I personally felt so overwhelmed and stressed by the huge media response that Love Mercy experienced two weeks ago, yet this was comparatively miniscule to what Jason must have felt. His unfortunate condition does not, and should not affect the real issue that IC is trying to promote, or the fact that IC is a credible and accountable organization with 10 years of solid campaigning behind them. I personally believe that the fact that Obama decided to send US special forces into Central Africa is largely, if not wholly, in response to the lobbying done by IC. What an amazing result, and a real demonstration of democracy in action.
We love Invisible Children. In fact, their first campaign in Australia back in 2008 was instrumental in informing myself of the situation. This awareness caused me to do more of my own research and eventually start the Love Mercy Foundation along with Eloise and Julius and many others who were equally as moved. The critics that have been quick to jump on the statistic that, “only 30% of their funds go to the children!” are missing the point. IC is not a development organization like Love Mercy. They are an awareness and advocacy organization, so the fact that they spend large percentages of their budget on creating awareness and advocacy campaigns is not surprising or detrimental to their cause. For people looking to donate to an organization that exists solely to provide on-the-ground services, then that is Love Mercy’s mandate. But, without awareness and advocacy work, our work is only half done. Development work is one thing, but advocating to change governments, policies, and systems that perpetuate poverty is crucial to our work if it is going to have a long life span and a positive impact.
Critics are caught on the fact that the film isn’t accurate because Kony isn’t in Uganda. It is true that the war is no longer in Uganda, and has not been since 2006. The movie did make mention of this, and showed an albiet brief summary of a highly complex and long-lasting conflict. Despite the fact that the LRA is no longer in Uganda, they are still in neighboring countries, and their behavior has not changed. Children are still being abducted. People are still being senselessly maimed and murdered…for no reason.
This video may have come too late for some, but the fact that it has come at all is important. Kony2012 is not the first movie that Invisible Children have made. Their previous 11 documentaries are much more in-depth, and provide a more detailed and historical account of events in Uganda, starting in 2003 when the LRA was still present. They can be purchased here. IC is not an overnight sensation like many people have been led to beleive. They have been working tirelessly in Central Africa and in the States to make their cause known – no one could have predicted the fact that this particular video would skyrocket to the forefront of every bodies minds.
The reaction in Uganda itself has been mixed. The consensus from Uganda suggests that people are slightly puzzled as to why they were left to suffer for over 20 years, and now suddenly everyone wants Kony to be held accountable after 6 years of peace. However one sentiment is clear: Ugandans welcome the awareness of their situation and the realization that they are no longer alone in the recovery. Even though some news reports (like this one filmed in Lira, where our office is located) suggest that the reaction is overwhelmingly negative, I wish that Ugandans were able to also watch the several other documentaries about their conflict rather than just this viral video that was not intended to tell their whole story.
For us, the fact that the Kony 2012 video was seen by nearly 100 million people, makes our job a whole lot easier. The way we do things must now change. We no longer need to work hard to make people aware of what is happening in parts of Central Africa today and what has happened in Uganda in the past. Instead, our role is now to provide people with an accountable and vibrant organisation working hard to restore what has been lost in Uganda.
You can contribute to our projects on our website.