Interesting infographic from Upworthy. Thoughts?
Here is a video created by Rosebell Kagumire, a respected journalist and blogger in Uganda, with her thoughts on the Kony 2012 video:
Please pass this on, as it is important – AND DIFFICULT – to get the voices of Africans into debates about Africa.
Mark D. Jordahl
OK – after I sent out that last post, I got a lot of questions about whether I have changed my past views on Invisible Children since I chose to promote their video.
I should have been more clear. While I believe they do their work with the best intentions, I am not a fan of Invisible Children, and I would not, personally, send them money.
At the same time, I am a fan of raising awareness about Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army, and nobody else is doing it as effectively as Invisible Children. This video is worth watching even though they completely mislead people about how easy it will be to catch Kony if only people will watch the video.
I must admit that I am conflicted in my feelings towards them. There are a lot of reasons not to like them:
- They twist information to boost their fundraising efforts rather than trying to put out current facts and educate people. I remain convinced that they want people to think the war still rages in Uganda because that is the country their fundraising efforts identify with. Even in this most recent video, they refer to Uganda as “relatively safe,” without coming right out and saying that the LRA has not been active in Uganda since 2006.
- They take sole credit for the advocacy efforts of dozens of people and groups.
- They simplify the issues in a very mainstream-media sort of way, which can lead to misguided activism.
- They have never had their finances independently audited, and they have no board of directors. (updated 3/8, apparently they have done audits and have a 4-person board, but have no standing audit committee)
- Most of all, they have a pretty lousy reputation in Uganda which, to me, is one of the strongest indictments.
And some big guns like the One Campaign (who asked their field staff not to promote Kony 2012 as a representative of One) and the Council of Foreign Relations have either distanced themselves or flat-out shot them down publicly.
Many of the criticisms being leveled against them are bogus. People are crying out about the fact that the top three staffers/founders are each making over $80k. Come on – they are running a $13 million operation, and probably are at it 80 hours per week. That is around average compensation for Executive Directors at organizations with half that budget, and we live in expensive times. If they were working for USAID or the US Embassy in Uganda, they would be making far more, with a benefits package that would blow your mind.
People also complain that they don’t put enough money into programs in Uganda. It is true that they are doing very little on the ground there, but that isn’t actually their main goal. They are a United States lobbying and advocacy group. The problem is, they pretend they are having a huge impact on the ground in Uganda rather than just being honest about it. This is one of the main reasons they aren’t viewed well in Uganda.
They seem to be kids on a joyride who are quite fond of themselves and are very good at what they do, which is media campaigns, not humanitarian work.
And really – is it just me, or is it downright creepy to wear a bracelet with Joseph Kony’s name on it as if he’s your boyfriend?
If Invisible Children would be more honest about what they do and don’t do, if they had a higher financial transparency rating on Charity Navigator, and if they made more of an effort to provide accurate, nuanced information about Africa, I could potentially become a fan since I ultimately support their goal of catching Kony. And really – what am I doing to help? At least they are diving in.
Here are a number of links that dive more deeply into the controversies around IC:
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, whether you agree or disagree with me. And feel free to send it on to others so they can add it to the mix of deciding whether or not to become active in the Kony 2012 campaign.
Mark D. Jordahl
Invisible Children has come up with another powerful campaign, Kony 2012, and another powerful video that you can view here:
While I am bracing myself for an onslaught of media making it sound like the war is still happening in Uganda, I am thrilled that there will be more awareness of the atrocities committed by the madman, Josephy Kony, and his Lord’s Resistance Army.
I have taken issue with Invisible Children’s perpetuation of the perception that Kony is still active in Uganda and that there are still “night-commuting” children in Gulu. At the same time, I have to give them immense credit and respect for the amount of visibility they have brought to this conflict that now ranges through Central African Republic, Eastern DRC and, by some accounts, South Sudan.
The video makes it seem pretty simple to capture Kony this year, just by keeping the world’s attention on him and keeping the 100 US military advisors in Uganda. I think it will probably be a little more difficult than that, given that the Ugandan army has been trying to defeat the LRA for nearly 3 decades, and the US did participate in a joint operation (Operation Lightning Thunder) in 2008-9 led by the armies of Uganda, South Sudan and DRC without success. The jungles of eastern DRC provide a lot of good hiding places for a small group of 200-or-so rebels, and they have a pattern of dividing up after an attack and re-grouping in a new location, making it even harder to track them down.
That said, I am glad that the United States is finally making a long-term military commitment to stopping such extreme human-rights violations. Also, having the military advisors there means the Ugandan army will have access to top-secret intelligence and military satellite images – things we weren’t likely to just hand over the keys to.
The things Kony forces his child-soldiers to do are beyond horrible, and beyond the comprehension of anyone who hasn’t heard the stories or talked to the children. I have written about some of my own feelings in What If It Was My Son? This is a man that needs to be stopped, and if public awareness around the world is one piece in the puzzle of stopping him, then I hope this video spreads far beyond the 3.5 million views it has had so far.
Mark D. Jordahl
Here is a response I received from John Beaton, the Texas, East Coast, and Middle America Assistant Regional Manager for Invisible Children after my earlier post. It sounds like they have made some commitments to take action in their next tour season to ensure that reporters get accurate information for stories about their events:
I appreciate you taking the time to get back to me. One of the five “pillars” of Invisible Children is that “We love a good idea.” And while we have sent press releases in the past, for the majority of our screenings, we have expected journalists to portray the information we portray accurately, or to do the research themselves. As you have pointed out, and much to our annoyance, as well. Many local papers gets some basic facts wrong.
So, I went and talked to a couple of other people within the organization and we are going to put together a “fact list” / generic press release to give to all the people who host screenings beginning next tour. The instructions will be to make sure anyone, from school newspaper to national media sees this fact list if they want to do a story about the screening or the cause etc.
In short, thank you for the good idea, Mark!
Thank you to Invisible Children for quick action on this. I look forward to seeing accurate information about Uganda in future stories!
Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala
It makes me want to scream every time I read articles like this recent one titled WHS students raising funds to aid Uganda’s ‘Invisible Children’ which states:
“”Invisible Children” are children who are running from child soldiers in Uganda. They are not able to go to school or live in their homes because they are always in hiding. They often become “night commuters” which means they walk all night to find a safe place to sleep during the day.”
So, basically, students at Windsor High School in Colorado are putting their hearts and souls into raising money for a situation that doesn’t even exist anymore. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has not been active in Uganda for five years, and the “night commuters” are a thing of the past here.
I’m not saying that everything is peachy in northern Uganda. Communities were torn apart during the conflict, the economy has not recovered, and many people are returning to burned-out homes and overgrown fields and now need to rebuild their lives. And the LRA is still doing horrible things in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic and need to be stopped.
Invisible Children did an incredible job in the mid-2000s to raise awareness in the West about the atrocities that were taking place here in Uganda during that time and during the previous 20 years. I absolutely respect and appreciate that.
But now I am starting to wonder about their motives. Perpetuating the idea that the war is still taking place in Uganda doesn’t help anything except their own massively effective fundraising efforts.
I have written directly to Invisible Children about this issue. Their response is that they have so many people volunteering for them and spreading publicity that they just can’t control it. If that is true, it seems totally unprofessional to me. If false messages are being put out in their name, they should want to have tighter control over it.
They should demand that all public events showing their films or being hosted by their clubs get approved through their central office and they should require that any information being given to the press should be accurate. In fact, they should have a press sheet that gets sent automatically to local media that represents the current situation in Uganda accurately.
Which brings up another issue – why aren’t these local reporters doing any fact-checking before posting their stories? It’s not that hard to do a quick web search to find out that the conflict is over here in Uganda.
The other possibility, one that I don’t want to believe, is that they realize it is in their best interests to have people believe the war is still happening here. Invisible Children is very much associated with northern Uganda, and they may be afraid that their fundraising efforts will suffer if people realize the LRA has moved on to other countries. If this is true, it makes me even angrier because they are preying on the young people who are fundraising for their work based on false information.
I am sure I will hear from somebody at Invisible Children about this post, reaffirming that they just can’t control their press. But, there are dozens of organizations working on the redevelopment of northern Uganda and Invisible Children is the ONLY one that I ever see associated with statements claiming the war is still active here. Why are they the only organization that can’t control their press?
Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala
UPDATE: Follow the link to read a Response by Invisible Children