The video went viral yesterday, and continues to spread like wildfire today. If you haven’t seen the video (or at least heard about it), you might as well be living under a rock. I’ve linked it here. As with any kind of campaign that gets this magnitude of exposure, the doubters will arise. Those that question a charity’s validity are just as important. It should be a concern for everyone to know where your money and support are going. This morning, I’ve seen many opinions about the organization, Invisible Children, and wanted to research on my own to form my own conclusions.
Invisible Children, became a non-profit organization in 2006. As a NPO, they run under the strict sanctions established for all non-profits. Their largest goal in this campaign to make Joseph Kony famous by spreading the word through the sharing of a very highly produced video intended to push you to take action. As I watched last night, I was one of the influenced. (Full disclosure: I immediately bought a bracelet to support.) As I woke up this morning, the cynic in me wanted to verify the validity of all of this, because my emotions took over last night. As a human being, you want to help end things as atrocious as what we were told is happening in Africa.
I’ve heard about genocide, malnourished children, AIDS epidemics, and poverty in Africa. I knew things are bad there. I had a close friend go to Rwanda and tell me of his experiences he saw first hand. (You can read his account here.) I never for a second questioned the horrible conditions those people face daily. So, my first instinct was, “let me learn everything I can about Joseph Kony.”
Of course the viral video tells you he is the leader of the guerilla group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). He’s been around for much longer than anyone with his kind of power should. US Military powers have gotten involved to stop him. The World Bank estimates that under his leadership the LRA has abducted and forced around 66,000 children to fight with them during the past two decades. The U.S. Africa Command has embarked on multiple missions to find and capture Kony. The International Criminal Court has placed him at the top of their list to arrest along with four other members of the LRA.
In an effort to as fair and unbiased as possible, I support what this organization is doing. It’s extremely important for the global population to be familiar with Joseph Kony and what he has done to the people and children in Uganda. People are being critical of the fact that Invisible Children support the Ugandan military who reportedly have not been the most upstanding help to their people. You can read about that here. Political corruption in these African countries is an outstanding problem, so it’s hard for me to criticize a group for trying to align with them and fix a broken system.
As for Invisible Children’s financial criticism, I’ve looked at the reports. It actually shows a breakdown of total expenditure with 80.54% going directly into programs and 19.46% going in to Fundraising and Management/General Expenses. I didn’t see any discrepancies. Maybe I missed the controversy, but I don’t find this charity to be a scam. They are trying to make a difference. It takes a lot of money to run these organizations, and even more when they embark on a campaign such as Kony2012.
Bottom line: Their goal is to educate the global population about a heinous individual in Uganda that a very limited amount of people would know about otherwise. They are not requiring anyone to give money if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. They want you to spread the word about this man. Regardless of your feelings on the IC, they’ve been pretty damned successful thus far. If a campaign like this can accomplish getting the world talking about the problems in Africa, I’m behind it. It’s about time that these issues are part of the public discourse.
Stop Kony. This is just the first step of great things to come from people who want to make a difference.