Reasons why I have been hesitant to jump on-board the Kony bandwagon.
1) The organization that produced the film, Invisible Children, is problematic.
- “Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production.” (source)
- “Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they haven’t had their finances externally audited.” (source)
- “In their campaigns, such organizations [as Invisible Children] have manipulated facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders.” (source)
2) The solution proposed in the video won’t work.
- The video demands the arrest of Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, but the situation is more complex. Arresting Kony will not have the dramatic impact the video creators propose.
- “It is no longer clear that the LRA represents a major threat to stability in the region.” (source)
- “The LRA is now reduced to about 200 fighters…. Rather than occupying villages, as the LRA did when they were stronger, they now primarily conduct 5-6 person raids on villages to steal food.” (source)
- “Finding Kony isn’t a simple thing to do. The areas in which he and his forces operate are dense jungle with little infrastructure.” (source)
- “Russell argues that the only entity that can find and arrest Kony is the Ugandan army. Given that the Ugandan army has been trying, off and on, since 1987 to find Kony, that seems like a troublesome strategy.” (source)
- “Kony continues to rely on child soldiers. That means that a military assault… would likely result in the death of abducted children.” (source)
- The big action they propose in the video, blanketing the cities of the world with Kony posters, supports this oversimplification of the problem. It proposes a fun and slightly deviant action, but in pursuit of an ultimate goal that has more symbolic than practical value for Ugandans.
3) The video and campaign are unintentionally racist.
- It robs Ugandans of agency. (source)
- Invisible Children has no Africans on its board of directors and collects money for itself rather than for Ugandan organizations. (source)
- The heroes of the film are white young people and adults from the US and Europe, particularly video narrator and campaigner Jason Russell.
- The victims are Ugandan children. Ugandan adults appear in the film to validate the work of Invisible Children, not to represent their own work.
- The video embodies the outdated idea of the “white man’s burden,” that white people improve the countries of the global south by intervening and enforcing their values, that the people who live in these countries cannot improve their countries alone.