Kony 2012 campaign faces ridicule, praise

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Jason Russell at “The Rescue” of Invisible Children in Santa Monica in 2009.
Image: Jane Rahman.
US President Barack Obama makes an announcement at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to extend US troops in Central Africa to attempt to capture Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony.
Video: The White House.

Recently, the non-profit activist organization, Invisible Children, Inc. released a video online which served to kick start the Kony 2012 campaign. The campaign was meant to raise awareness about the Lord's Resistance Army and its leader Joseph Kony. Both support and condemnation followed the release of the video.

The video attracted over 100 million views and lead to significant discussion via an array of social networking sites. The campaign assertively called for people to "pledge" to stand up and take action against Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army. However, of the 104 million views of the film, only 3.4 percent of those people pledged to do something about the issue.

"I know that there is some criticism, in particular about the campaign and Invisible Children as an organization," said Josh Schuler, the director of programming at Christian Fellowship Church in Evansville, Indiana. "I really think that some of that stuff is unfounded and people don’t understand what it’s like for the Ugandans."

Schuler is an advocate for Invisible Children's push to capture Joseph Kony. He has visited Uganda twice, once in 1997 and again in 2010. There, Schuler and a missions team from the church, spent the majority of their time speaking to school children in orphanages, and similar institutions and also addressed groups in various men's and women's prisons, in and around Kampala, Uganda.

Some of the criticism of Invisible Children comes from people questioning what they do with their donations. Invisible Children’s website provides financial statements from 2006 to 2011. Statements reveal that, in 2011 the organization's net income was US$4,870,547. However, the report does not state how the organization spends those monies. Invisible Children did not provide a statement to Wikinews about the net income.

“If you look at Invisible Children’s budget, a lot of it is awareness; raising money so they can build awareness, not necessarily so they can execute justice, because they are not a justice organization," Schuler said.

Invisible Children's 2011 annual report compares their Central Africa Programs from 2011 with years 2010 and 2009. It shows that Invisible Children spent only 37 percent on these programs in 2011, compared with 46.5 percent in 2010, when Invisible Children made a revenue of 67 percent more in 2011 than in 2010.

“Honestly, even if Invisible Children was completely illegitimate, Kony is still a madman and he still needs to be brought to justice," Schuler said. Schuler emphasized that the value of awareness is huge, however he believes the next step to take is "calling congressmen, senators and lobbying for them to take action."

"There are bills out there trying to allocate dollars that are already in the U.S. budget to continue to fund the work of these groups in countries to bring people to justice," Schuler said.

The United States is taking few steps to apprehend Kony. “If Uganda was resource rich to the degree that Iraq was, in the United States we would be talking about Joseph Kony to the same degree that we talk about Saddam Hussein, it’s just that Uganda is not full of oil," Schuler said. "There is no economic benefit for the U.S. to go prosecute [Kony], it’s purely justice."

Cquote1.svg Honestly, even if Invisible Children was completely illegitimate, Kony is still a madman and he still needs to be brought to justice. Cquote2.svg

—Josh Schuler

United States President Barack Obama first assigned 100 troops in October 2011 in Uganda to search for Kony. On April 25, 2012 Obama announced that he had extended their time in Africa, aiming for Kony's capture. "There is legislation out there; an organization, International Justice Mission, which is a prosecuting organization working around the world for issues with social justice, prosecuting cases with sex slavery and child labor around the world," Schuler said.

There have also been questions raised asking whether Kony is even still alive and doubts about his current location. "Kony and the LRA have been pushed out of Uganda, but they still do raids into northern Uganda," Schuler said. "Taking Kony out, doesn’t fix all of the problems. It would definitely start to help with some of it. And I think the corruption stuff could actually be solved democratically."

The film, released on March 5 shows clips of two different trips that co-founder and director of Invisible Children, Jason Russell, took to Uganda. They want to the campaign to raise awareness in hope that if enough people call for Kony's capture, US leaders would have to respond. Using this strategy, Invisible Children's goal is to detain Kony by December 2012.

Invisible Children was started in 2004 after Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey and Laren Poole traveled to Uganda to film a documentary, Invisible Children: The Rough Cut, about the ongoing civil war in Uganda. Since its establishment, Invisible Children has started multiple campaigns to raise awareness.

After the initial release of the first Kony 2012 video, both support and condemnation followed. The negative reviews from the public lead Invisible Children to release a second video titled Kony 2012 Part II- Beyond Famous, on April 2, 2012. The video was published to address the criticism and issues of the first video and shed light on what the organization has accomplished in Uganda.



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