By Elana Katz
A non-profit organization Invisible Children’s (IC) mission is to stop the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) violence and support the war-affected communities in East and Central Africa. They do this successfully in three major and interwoven ways.
The first is making the world aware of the LRA and their atrocities, including the production of documentaries such as The Rough Cut in 2004, Go in 2008, The Rescue in 2009, Tony in 2010, KONY 2012 in 2012.
Since its inception, IC has toured 11 films around the country where they are seen for free by millions of people, spreading awareness about a very neglected issue.
The second way is the creation of advocacy campaigns to stop the LRA and protect civilians in affected areas, like the Global Night Commute in 2006 and Cover the Night on April 20, 2012.
The third and last way is operating programs on the ground in LRA-affected areas that provide civilians with protection, rehabilitation and development assistance.
These three facets of the overall mission have always been at the forefront and every day continue to be refined and met, redefining how a non-profit organization typically functions.
Having been involved with IC since 2008, I have seen the organization work tirelessly, year after year, to give a voice to the voiceless with little guarantee that anything would be done to stop the atrocities in Central Africa.
That is why in 2012, co-founder Jason Russell wanted to make it the year that made Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but bring his atrocities to light, arresting him, and putting him on trial as the world’s worst war criminal.
The world’s reaction to KONY 2012 was unbelievable, with people wanting to know more about the cause and how they could help.
But the KONY 2012 campaign has also brought about harsh criticism of IC and their initiatives, all of which have been addressed on their website in a public statement.
The overarching issues surrounding KONY 2012 for many are the oversimplification of a complex issue, lying about the LRA and declaring that the war is in northern Uganda, and the questionable use of the money that IC raises through their campaigns.
First, IC wanted to gather mass support with KONY 2012, understanding that an effective tool was to package a 26 year conflict in an easily understandable format. Naturally, in a 30 minute film some points of the conflict may get overlooked but the organization provides other ways for supporters of the movement to get involved in a deeper way, constantly adapting the complex nature of the conflict.
Second, IC addressed that the LRA had left Uganda in 2006, which is illustrated on the map within the first 10 minutes of the film, in which the brown shade expands from northern Uganda to other surrounding countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic.
IC continues to see the threat the LRA has had on surrounding countries by working with them and establishing initiatives on the ground.
Also, in September 2011, Invisible Children and Enough partnered to create the LRA Crisis Tracker, developing a way to track Africa’s longest running conflict in real-time, creating an unprecedented level of transparency.
Lastly, Invisible Children is an unorthodox non-profit organization and they break down their financial work with three M’s: the movie, the movement and the mission.
Their yearly financial statements and 990 forms are on their website, continuing to promote transparency. IC is not like other organizations such as World Vision, and they do not claim to be. IC strives to do other work such as advocating here in America, which has been proven to work as illustrated in KONY 2012 going viral with over 50 million views in the first five days.
With criticism and scrutiny at an all time high, it’s important to remember that the LRA is not in Uganda any more but their violence remains serious. Yes, videos and changing your Facebook picture doesn’t arrest people, but the campaign has a very coherent strategy to make Joseph Kony’s arrest more likely by lobbying Washington. Moreover, KONY 2012 is also about much more than arresting Kony but rather promoting a comprehensive response to the ongoing deadly crisis in Central Africa.
IC is not opposed to peace negotiations, yet Kony utilized every attmept to sign peace agreements as a time to rearm himself and the LRA. Ultimately, the goals of KONY 2012 are in line with what many local civil society organizations in LRA-affected areas wish for, and KONY 2012 advocates only for effective and accountable assistance to help regional governments to bring Kony to justice and protect civilians.
IC and KONY 2012 stand for a resolution of a complex and serious issue. The world is responding and policy makers are starting to take a stand against the LRA’s violence. We must stop at nothing because this is something we can all agree on. Make 2012 the year you stand up in favor of peace and justice.