I'm sure that by now, most people have seen the Kony 2012 video that went viral over the past...24 hours or so and displaying the crimes of Joseph Kony and his LRA. I know I did, and I tweeted and posted it on facebook, and shared it around.
And then I started doing some digging.
At first, I saw a lot of people parroting things they'd seen and was pretty scathing about it. For one, not one of them listed where they got these numbers from. I brushed it off as a sort of 'haters gonna hate' thing. But I kept seeing 31% (32% in some cases) of funds to on-the-ground efforts and started getting to the serious business of research, which I pride myself on being fairly good at. It took a while, because most of the results I found at first were on blog sites, or were responses on forums, and were therefore, not very reputable.
Then someone posted Invisible Children's 2010/2011 audited financials
and at first I wasn't sure what I was looking at. I'm not an accountant, nor am I very finance-savvy. I kept the page up and kept looking.
I found The rating for Invisible Children on Charity Navigator
which is a known charity watchdog group. I started getting nervous, because while the pie chart that shows where spending is looks good, the bar graph beside it that shows revenue vs. expenses for the group didn't look so good for 2011, and compared to similar groups (you can see them at the bottom of the page) they've actually got a pretty low score.
I was skeptical of the write-up on Guyism
because I didn't know if they were reliable or not, but their article (which has had 2 updates since I saw it the first time) linked me to The Daily What
which had links to multiple reputable sources. At this point, I went back to the audited financials
and took another look. The group raised $13,765,180 in 2011, and spent $8,676,614. Of that, $2,810,681 went to what is listed as "Direct Services." The next largest chunk at $1,724,993 is listed as "Compensation Costs." The third largest chunk at $1,074,273 is "Travel Expenses." The sections "Film Costs" and "Production Cost" reach a total of $1,209,132 for the year. Now I'm getting seriously leery.
I figure at this point, it's time to look for actual news groups covering the whole thing and one of the first results is the filmmaker responding to criticism
on an Australia morning show. I suggest you watch, because at one point he addresses the 32% accusations and actually agrees that this is true, and that the rest goes to raising awareness in the Western World. The 32% accusation
comes from a Tumblr Blog
focused solely on creating more accurate awareness of the problems in Uganda and the problems with the Invisible Children organization. At one point in the interview, the filmmaker claims that the person running the blog is a "High school student in Canada." While the blog writer is a student in Canada, he is actually a second year sociology and political science student at a university.
At this point I read an article about How Kony is no longer in Uganda and the situation is more complex
than the Kony 2012 video portrays it.
My feelings on the Invisible Children organization and the Kony 2012 campaign are complex at this point. Should Joseph Kony be brought to justice for his crimes? Yes, definitely. But while the idea of making Kony famous for his crimes to ensure he will be captured and brought to justice is a noble one, there are more pressing problems for Uganda right now. Kony has left the country, his forces are severely diminished from the height of his reign of terror, and children don't have to fear for their lives. But the government is corrupt, and children are poverty-stricken, and those who escaped from the LRA are mostly young adults or adolescents now, and still have very little in the way of a future because there are few options available to them. Disease and child prostitution are rampant, and the country needs more than people knowing about a war that was at it's worst in the past. The call to action, to ensure that the US maintains it's presence in Uganda seems redundant. There has been no mention of withdrawing the forces that were sent to assist the Ugandans, and simply finding and eliminating Kony as a major player is not necessarily a solution to the problems that Uganda faces. Kony's reign of terror was a product of the political scene already in place, and his removal will not change that.