By Joseph Fitzpatrick
I, like the millions of people supporting Invisible Children, know almost nothing about what is actually going on with the LRA, Joseph Kony or Uganda in general. What I do know is that the men behind the Kony 2012 campaign are geniuses for using the mass media, specifically Facebook, as a way to spread their message, especially in such a short span of time. This is unfortunate however, because the organization has been in existence since 2005, a time when most sources say that Joseph Kony and the LRA was actually a significant problem in Uganda. Now in 2012, this heightened awareness for just one of the many problems in Africa and the world as a whole, seems counterproductive. Just 3 weeks after the explosion of the Kony 2012 video, I have already noticed an incredible decline in the amount of general concern for the issue. This is a fad, and while I truly believe that the creators of the organization have good intentions about what they are doing, it is evident that there are hundreds of thousands of more reputable charity organizations out there that provide direct services to a much larger pool of beneficiaries.
A lot of the criticism about Kony 2012 I first started seeing came from American bloggers, but when actual Ugandans began coming out and giving their opinions of the campaign, it made me even more skeptical. Arthur Larok, the Action Aid’s director in Uganda, for example said, ‘many NGOs [Non-government Organizations] and the government, especially local government in the north, are about rebuilding and securing lives for children, in education, sanitation, health and livelihoods. International campaigning that doesn’t support this agenda is not so useful at this point. We have moved beyond that.’ He went on to say that, ‘Kony has been around for 25 years and over. I don’t think in the north at the moment that is really what is most important. It might be best on the Internet and the like but, at the end of the day, there are more pressing things to deal with. If the Americans had wanted to arrest him, they would have done that a long time ago.’
Invisible Children has also experienced scrutiny in regard to the actual use of their funds. They state that, ‘we are committed, and always have been, to be 100% financially transparent and to communicate in plain language the mission of the organization so that everyone can make an informed decision about whether they want to support us.’ And as such, they provide a detailed chart of their expenses on their website. In this chart they readily admit that only 37.14% of their expenses in 2011 went towards actual programs in Africa such as, ‘Schools for Schools,’ the ‘Cotton Project,’ and the ‘Legacy Scholarship Fund.’ The rest went towards media advertising, management, and awareness programs and products. This is great for their purposes, since their goal essentially was to generate awareness, but now that this awareness has been completely saturated in my opinion, I hope they decide to devote a much larger portion of their funds towards actual programs in the years to come.
To conclude, if you do support the Kony 2012 campaign or Invisible Children that is great, but as with any charity organization, make sure you do a significant amount of research before you decide to contribute in any way. There is so much that needs to be done to improve the world that we live in, and supporting one organization simply because it is the new ‘cool’ thing to do is definitely not the solution.