Save Uganda-but be aware of what you’re supporting

Jorie Calabrese, Staff Writer

The situation in Uganda has been dire for years, but like dire situations in Darfur, Sudan, Congo, and Syria, it has not been brought to most of the American public’s attention until a well-intentioned organization put the situation in the limelight. This is exactly what Invisible Children, a non-profit group, has done. With worldwide trending topics on Twitter of #stopkony and #KONY2012 and over sixty million views and counting on Youtube, the video that Invisible Children put together to advocate to stop Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, has gone viral and brought plenty of new attention to the situation in Uganda and Kony’s part in it. But is this the correct way of educating America and helping Uganda? Here’s the information; decide for yourself.

The Cause: The video that Invisible children has released focuses on Joseph Kony, the leader of the LRA, a rebel group in Uganda, who was indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005. The LRA has been active in Uganda since 1986, abducting, brainwashing, and indoctrinating children as child soldiers and sex slaves, and massacring those who opposed them.

The Goal: The goal of the video is to inform the American public – mainly the American youth. Invisible Children wants to make Joseph Kony a household name, to raise support for his arrest and to set a precedent for international justice. The idea is that if everyone knows who Joseph Kony is, everyone will unite to stop him.

The Organization: Jedidiah Jenkins, a member of the staff of Invisible Children, has clarified to GOOD News that group is not an aid organization; it’s an advocacy and awareness one. Invisible Children was founded in the early 2000s, becoming an official nonprofit in 2006, after Jason Russell, Bobby Bailey, and Laren Poole traveled to African to make a movie featuring South Sudan, and crossed paths with children walking into town to sleep for the night, so that they’d be safe from the LRA. Since 2006, Invisible Children has raised money through various campaigns, and has helped build schools, fund scholarships, create jobs, and build an early-warning system to help track crisis in Uganda.

The Criticism: Quickly after the Kony 2012 video went viral, criticism of the campaign began, regarding Invisible Children’s motives, finances, and facts. In 2011, Invisible Children raised $13.8 million and spent $8.9 million, with $3.3 million (less than 40%) of that money going to direct aid in Africa. Spokespeople have yet to address what will happen after Kony is captured in the case that his remaining followers refuse to stop. The video implies that Kony is Uganda’s largest problem and that he is still a strong force in Uganda and other African countries, and, as Ugandan journalist Angelo Izama points out, fails to mention that “a joint force of Ugandan, Cogngolese, Sudanese, and Central African troops”, assisted by U.S. combat troops, is currently on a manhunt for Kony, and have been since 2011. The group has also been criticized for supporting the Ugandan army, which has a track record of raping and looting.

The Facts: Joseph Kony is a war criminal that has left destruction and murder in his wake since 1986, but he and the LRA haven’t been in Uganda for six years – according to the U.S. Department of State’s website, there have been no attacks by the LRA in Uganda since August 2006. Currently, the LRA are more active in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. The LRA has recently launched twenty attacks in northeastern Congo, but Reuters Africa reports that Mounouba Madnodje, who is a spokesperson for the UN’s current mission to stabilize the Democratic Republic of Congo, believes the attacks are “the last gasp of a dying organization” and that the LRA has only 200 fighters left. Uganda is, however, still facing the backlash of Kony’s terrorist attacks, and is now focusing on rebuilding their country. According to Victor Ochin, the director of African Youth Initiative Network based in Lira, the main problems Uganda currently faces are HIV, child prostitution and a mysterious neurological disease with no known cure.

More Information: If you’re interested in reading up on what’s going on in Uganda, Kony 2012, and the response of the Ugandan people to this issue, here are some helpful links.

The Kony 2012 website, which features the video and other information about the cause: http://www.kony2012.com/

Invisible Children’s website:

http://www2.invisiblechildren.com/homepage

The U.S. Department of State’s page about Uganda: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2963.htm

An article from The Guardian, featuring an interview with Jacob Acaye: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/mar/08/jacob-acaye-child-kony-2012?intcmp=122

An article by award-winning Ugandan journalist Angelo Izama: http://thisisafrica.wordpress.com/2012/03/07/acholi-street-stop-kony2012-invisible-childrens-campaign-of-infamy/

An article from GOOD News, featuring an interview with staff member Jedidiah Jenkins: http://www.good.is/post/a-kony-2012-creator-defends-the-film/

An article featuring African voices responding to KONY 2012: http://boingboing.net/2012/03/08/african-voices-respond-to-hype.html

Invisible Children’s response to the criticism they’re receiving: http://www.invisiblechildren.com.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/critiques.html