Invisible Children – STOP KONY

Note: As I wrote this post, a lot of new information arose which settled the truthfulness/falsity of accusations.

I’m kind of afraid to write this post right now because of all the criticism that is coming down on the NPO organization, Invisible Children. But I feel compelled to write something because of all the controversy about them being a scam.

I learned about Invisible Children not long after its inception. I don’t remember exactly when it was, but I think it was because Switchfoot had partnered with them and were advocates around that time. The war involving Joseph Kony and the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) has been going on since before I was born. I’m not an expert on the issue but I am not entirely new to it either. The little bits of what I do know, I learned through

  • Invisible Children – through their website, as well as when they came to Northeastern while I was a student there, and I heard the stories firsthand from Jacob (the kid mentioned in the half-hour video) and another former child soldier
  • the documentary, War Dance
  • the film, The Last King of Scotland – not about Joseph Kony, but depicts the turmoil in Uganda preceding the LRA
  • friends who have gone to Uganda on missions or partnered with other organizations (Come Let’s Dance and Guluwalk) that are involved in the area
  • self-research
Controversy aside, Kony needs to be captured and brought to justice. Foreign Affairs has criticized Invisible Children (among other organizations such as Human Rights Watch, and World Vision) for “manipulat[ing] facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers […]” in order to get people support/donate to their cause, while ignoring the horrendous acts committed by Uganda’s own national army against civilians. There’s a lot that can be said about this statement, but I don’t think exaggeration is an issue when innocent children are forced into a violent life. Even if it’s one abduction, one murder, life is still significant. You can’t exaggerate life’s worth.

One of the major oppositions to donating/supporting Invisible Children is the stewarding of their finances. I’ll admit that when I first read about claims on how they used and distributed donations, I felt a little foolish for helping the video go viral. But then I took a step back and realized how quickly and easily I was made to doubt my support for the organization – the same way that critics said people blindly bought into the STOP KONY movement. I won’t pretend to know how to read and interpret financials (even though I should, since I’m studying business), but if you go here, you can see for yourself how Invisible Children spends their money, as well as their rebuttal to other assertions made about them. It was previously believed that they used most of their donations for personal traveling expenses (related to their cause), and equipment and technology to put together their films, but now we know that the finances are equally distributed three-pronged. But even if it were the case that much of the money was used for administrative purposes, I think we need to be a little more forgiving — people always forget that the staff of organizations like this need to use funds in a way that don’t always go directly to the people they are trying to help. And let me just say, I think this group is doing a great job using their talents (film making and the like) to make a significant impact on the war against Kony. I’ll reiterate what others have said: the purpose of the film was to raise awareness and “make Kony famous,” not swindle people to give their money to them.

There’s a lot of other points I can expound on, but I’ll just do one more. There was mention of the White Man’s Burden, and how the founders of Invisible Children exemplify the ideal, but how we (western powers) shouldn’t go into this believing/acting like we can be their savior. Movies like last year’s Machine Gun Preacher seem to attest to this notion. As much as I am annoyed that it seems like the world always needs a white man to save them (ex. The Last Samurai, Gran Torino), I think we are now beyond the point of exercising caution as to not offend. To use a few buzz words, globalization has made the world flat, and we are more connected now than ever. I am reminded of Proverbs 31:8-9, which says:
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defends the rights of the poor and needy.
This isn’t about race. This is a cause for humanity.

 

I’m not saying everyone should go support Invisible Children now that they’ve cleared the air. People should make up their own minds about who they want to support and what causes they want to get involved with. If you give money to an organization that you later find out is corrupt, it’s okay to feel a duped, but don’t get too caught up in it. The way I see it is similar to giving money to a homeless person on the street (though on a totally different scale): you’re giving out of a tugging at your heart, and you’re taking a risk on how that person is going to use what you’ve given him/her. This isn’t to say that you should be stupid and throw your money to whatever, but what’s done it done.

If interested, here’s a link to a lot of other helpful links about STOP KONY/KONY 2012

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