Friday, March 09, 2012

kony 2012

In the past couple of days, thousands of Canadians have shown their support for Invisible Children’s newest campaign, Kony2012. Many of my twitter friends have retweeted the link, my friends on Facebook have shared the video. It's been view over 13.87million times on Vimeo and over 40.8 million times on YouTube [as of Thursday, 8 March 2012, 7:00pm].
I'm going to try to make this reasonable short. There are some good things and some not so good things about Kony 2012. There is no doubt that Kony is an evil man. And nothing I write in this post in any way minimizes that. 

the good...
Powerful film making 
Jason Russel has told a compelling story. He makes some undeniably powerful claims about the value of every life, the injustice of child soldiers, the corruption of the Ugandan situation with Joseph Kony and his cronies. To produce a viral video that is not 2-5 minutes long, but 30 minutes long is unheard of. The quality of the film making is also high – it is as compelling a short film as I have seen. It is inspirational, educational, media literate, beautiful and breathtakingly sad. 
Inspirational vision 
There is a very clear call to action. Using our social media opportunities we can call others into this fight against the tragedies of child soldiers. It is a large vision. 
Movement for Change
The call to get involved with a clear movement for change – to become part of something global and significant – definitely something I want to sign up for. To use your voice and your power to help others – this is clearly a right challenge to all of us. 
By targeting some key media influencers [Rhianna, Bono, Mark Zuckerberg] the Invisible Children group behind the video have been incredibly clever. Nobody wants to be seen as being against a campaign that wants to free child solders. This is an excellent example of how to run a viral media campaign - I'm sure it will become part of media curricula.
As a follower of Jesus I am moved by the passion and commitment to try and do something about the poor and vulnerable. Nothing is closer to God’s heart and Jesus’ mission than rescuing the powerless from the hands of oppressors. I want to support and join in with the fight for these invisible children. Caring for the needy, defending the rights of the vulnerable is a core part of what it means to be a Christian. 

the bad...
USA centric
That in and of itself does not make it bad, it's just that I have no intention of putting up posters that are so clearly tied into the US Election.
There is a perceived lack of integrity with their finances, with many noting that just over 30% of the donations go directly to help those in need. You can read the company’s latest financial report here. Now, Invisible Children have in the last day updated their site to address some of these issues, which is good to see.  But still, there is less than 40% going to actually assist the Invisible Children. There are a lot of other organizations that are doing a better job on the ground.

  1. Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn't been for 6 years! The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) was pushed out of Uganda in 2006 and has been operating in extremely remote areas of the Democrtic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and the Central African Republic ever since;
  2. the LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality;
  3. the LRA, thankfully, does not have 30,000 mindless child soldiers. This grim figure, cited by Invisible Children in the film, refers to the total number of kids abducted by the LRA over the last nearly 30 years. Sadly, it is also the same number estimated for the total killed in the more than 20 years of conflict in Northern Uganda. 
Understanding Uganda... indeed much of Africa
What I see happening with the Invisible Children campaign and with a lot of other approaches, is the same thing we have seen with western military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq and.... We in the West provide what we see as the best solution, but it in no way addresses the culture of the people. It is as bad as Western missionaries imposing western dress and hymnody on people groups. 

  • Throwing money at African issues will not solve the problems. In fact, it may intensive conflict.
  • Bringing Joseph Kony to justice, as important as that is, will not solve the issues. There has been violence in places like Uganda for many, many years.
  • There are a lot of invisible children and women in a lot of places on the African continent. The politics of Africa are way more diverse and complicated than is often talked about - and can we please recognize that that Africa is not a single entity. It is made up of many countries and many more tribal groups (which is more important to understand that the issue of country).
I am not well versed in Ugandan politics. But reading around the blogosphere questions have been raised around working the Invisible Children’s willingness to work with the Ugandan army who are pretty notorious for the way they operate. The following blog have raises some important concerns: liferemixed: reflections on kony 2012

I find it a little odd that not a single African is a member of the executive staff or the board of directors of Invisible Children.  

The sceptical part of me, wonders how many people who have shared the video actually watched the whole thing and how many can point to where Uganda is on a map.

So what should you do?
Watch the movie
It’s a masterpiece regardless of where you land in the end.  
Dig Deeper
Take a closer look at the campaign and what funding it would actually mean. This is true for any organization you support. 
Read my friend Paulo Mugarura's post. Paulo is a Ugandan living in Canada and he writes a well thought out post on Uganda and Invisible Children.
Stay Connected
Just because there are questions and things are more complicated than they seem – don’t lose heart and duck out. Lets engage with the Invisible Children movement as there is so much common ground so much to commend in what they are doing – but lets not be afraid to ask the awkward questions.
Make a difference
The LRA is a problem worth solving, but how to do that is a complicated question with no easy answers. North Americans are right to care but we need to stop kidding ourselves that spending $30 plus shipping and handling for a Kony 2012 Action Kit makes us part of the solution to anything. We need to find effective ways to help the poor and needy and to end moral horrors such as the use of child soldiers, people trafficking etc. but it might take a little bit more work than a twitter tweet or a facebook share. One of the purposes of Kony 2012 is to stir people to action. So resolve that you will do something to come to the aid of children in the world who are being oppressed 
Pray for Invisible Children

If you decide to not support the Kony 2012 movement, you can still pray for justice to be done through their efforts. If nothing else, they have pulled our attention away from ourselves this week. That’s a miracle itself these days. But let's also pray that justice and not vigilantism is accomplished.

“Joseph Kony and other LRA leaders have evaded arrest for far too long and this campaign is a salient reminder of the continuing crimes by LRA members and the need to arrest and surrender their leaders to the ICC so they can face trial,” said Erwin van der Borght, Africa director at Amnesty International. 

1 comment:

Tina Moore said...

Great Post!