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