Extraordinary Grassroots Movement: ‘Kony 2012′ (Updated)

Extraordinary Grassroots Movement: ‘Kony 2012′ (Updated)

Oct 08

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The last eleven weeks have been the most intense period of global engagement in the history of the LRA conflict. By FAR. And it’s because you’ve been asking your political leaders to step up and support international efforts to end LRA violence. The May 12th capture of LRA commander Caesar Achellam is incredibly significant and will drastically weaken the LRA’s capacity to commit violence against innocent people. For more than 25 years Achellam was fighting in the bush, abducting children, and committing the most horrific atrocities; but this week he isn’t. Let that sink in.

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KONY 2012: Part II — Beyond Famous offers a closer look at the LRA and explores the solutions put forward by leaders of the currently-affected areas of CAR, DRC, and South Sudan, where local communities continue to live under the constant threat of LRA violence. This generation has responded to the call to make Joseph Kony famous. Now we need to dig deeper and turn awareness into informed action. That starts with sharing this film and continues with participating in Cover the Night, the advocacy and awareness event taking place worldwide on April 20th.

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KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.

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Statement From Jason Russell’s Wife
March 17, 2012

“Thank you to everyone concerned with Jason and his health. Jason has dedicated his adult life to this cause, leading up to KONY 2012. We thought a few thousand people would see the film, but in less than a week, millions of people around the world saw it. While that attention was great for raising awareness about Joseph Kony, it also brought a lot of attention to Jason — and, because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal, and Jason took them very hard.

“Let us say up front that Jason has never had a substance abuse or drinking problem, and this episode wasn’t caused by either of those things. But yes, he did some irrational things brought on by extreme exhaustion. On our end the focus remains only on his health, and protecting our family. We’ll take care of Jason, you take care of the work.

“The message of the film remains the same: stop at nothing.”

Statement From CEO Ben Keesey
March 16, 2012

“Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday. Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time.”

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What Jason Russell Remembers About His Public Breakdown

Jason Russell says he had only a few hours of sleep the night before his public breakdown in March 2012. He says he spent some of the morning talking to his wife and a friend in their home. After they left, Jason says, things got hazy. Watch as he walks Oprah through what he remembers of that day and find out why he says his behavior is not representative of who he really is.

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RELATED ARTICLES:

• Anti-Kony Campaign In Turmoil After Filmmaker’s Breakdown (Reuters)

‘Kony 2012′ Director Treated For Psychosis (ABC News)

Mike Daisey, KONY 2012′s Jason Russell and the Viral Allure of the Almost True (Forbes)

Kony Video Director To Be Released From Mental Ward… As Ugandan Prime Minister Piles On Pressure With New Video Criticism (Daily Mail)

Jason Russell, Man Behind Viral Kony 2012 Video, Not Using Drugs, Alcohol Before Detained By Cops: Wife (NYDailyNews)

Invisible Children Co-Founder Detained: SDPD (MSNBC)

Kony Video Director Hospitalized After “Incident” (Reuters)

Nicholas Kristof: Viral Video, Vicious Warlord (New York Times)

Is ‘Clicktivism’ Destroying Meaningful Social Activism? (Aljazeera: The Stream)

‘KONY 2012′ Tops 100 Million Views, Becomes the Most Viral Video in History (Mashable)

Click graphic for larger view.

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RELATED LINKS:

Kony 2012 Website
Invisible Children on Facebook
Invisible Children on Twitter
Invisible Children Blog
Invisible Children YouTube Channel
Invisible Children: Discover the Unseen (DVD)
Wikipedia on Invisible Children, Inc.

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WEB STAR BORN: KONY VIDEO GETS MILLIONS OF VIEWS
By Jason Straziuso and Rodney Muhumuza
Associated Press
March 8, 2012

Original Link

If Joseph Kony lived in relative anonymity before this week, he’s an Internet star now.

A video about the atrocities carried out by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army has gone viral, racking up millions more views seemingly by the hour.

The marketing campaign is an effort by the advocacy group Invisible Children to vastly increase awareness about a jungle militia leader who is wanted for atrocities by the International Criminal Court and is being hunted by 100 U.S. Special Forces advisers and local troops in four Central African countries.

The group’s 30-minute video, which was released Monday, had more than 32 million views on YouTube by Thursday. The movie is part of an effort called KONY 2012 that targets Kony and the LRA.

“Kony is a monster. He deserves to be prosecuted and hanged,” said Col. Felix Kulayigye, the spokesman for Uganda’s military.

But Kulayigye said that Kony’s forces — once thousands strong — have been so degraded that he no longer considers Kony a threat to the region. Because of the intensified hunt for Kony, his forces split into smaller groups that can travel the jungle more easily.

Experts estimate that the LRA now has only about 250 fighters. Still, the militia abducts children, forcing them to serve as soldiers or sex slaves, and even to kill their parents or each other to survive. The LRA now operates in Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Uganda, Invisible Children and (hash)stopkony were among the top 10 trending terms on Twitter among both the worldwide and U.S. audience on Wednesday night, ranking higher than New iPad or Peyton Manning. Twitter’s top trends more commonly include celebrities than fugitive militants.

Jolly Okot was abducted in 1986 by the militia group that later became the LRA. The then-18-year-old could speak English so was valuable to the militants. She was also forced to have sex.

Today, Okot is the Uganda country director for Invisible Children, in charge of 105 employees. She said the group is helping 800 people affected by LRA violence to attend high school and university. She said the program has given hope to kids who previously dropped out of the education system.

“The most exciting thing about this film is that I’m so grateful that the world has been able to pay attention to an issue that has long been neglected,” Okot said. “I think it is an eye-opener and I think this will push for Joseph Kony to be apprehended, and I think justice will get to him.”

International Criminal Court Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said it has been hard to raise public awareness about Kony since issuing his warrant in 2005.

“Kony is difficult, he is not killing people in Paris or in New York. Kony is killing people in Central African Republic, no one cares about him,” he said. “These young people from California mobilizing this effort is incredible, exactly what we need.”

He praised the group that made the film.

“They are not fighting, they are just putting the right focus: stopping the crimes, arresting Kony, helping people,” he said. “Perfect.”

Ben Keesey, Invisible Children’s 28-year-old chief executive officer, said the viral success shows their message resonates and that viewers feel empowered to force change. It was released on the website www.kony2012.com.

The burst of attention has also brought with it some criticism on Internet sites of Invisible Children’s work, including the ratio of the group’s spending on direct aid, its rating by the site Charity Navigator, and a 2008 photo of three Invisible Children members holding guns alongside troops from the country now known as South Sudan.

Invisible Children posted rebuttals to the criticism on its website, saying that it has spent about 80 percent of its funds on programs that further its mission, about 16 percent on administration and management, and about 3 percent on fundraising. The group said its accountability and transparency score is currently low because it has four independent voting members on its board of directors and not five, but that it is seeking to add a fifth. The group said the three workers in the photo thought it would be a good “joke” photo for family and friends.

Kony’s Ugandan rebel group is blamed for tens of thousands of mutilations and killings over the last 26 years.

Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, the top U.S. special operations commander for Africa, told reporters last month that U.S. troops are now stationed in bases in Uganda, Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic as part of the anti-LRA fight. Losey said there’s been a decrease in the lethality of LRA activities attributable to U.S. and partner nation efforts.

Ruhakana Rugunda, the Ugandan diplomat who led the country’s failed peace negotiations with Kony in 2006, said the work of organizations such as Invisible Children preserves the memory of an insurgency whose brutal legacy should never be forgotten. The talks with Kony, mediated by South Sudan, ended in 2008 after the rebel leader refused to sign the final peace agreement, saying he could not guarantee his security once he left the bush.

The last known images of Kony show him shaking hands, and sometimes smiling, with dignitaries visiting his camp. Some images showed him wearing a suit and shiny black shoes.

“Kony gives you the impression that he is harmless, that he cannot catch a fly,” Rugunda said, recalling his conversations with Kony, who was an altar boy before he became an elusive rebel leader.

Rugunda last saw Kony in a forested camp in eastern Congo before the rebel leader and his men fled to the Central African Republic, where they have retained the capacity to harass villagers for food.

Rugunda said that capturing Kony alive would set in motion a “full accountability mechanism” in which the world would get to know how it came to be that Kony committed the many crimes he is accused of.

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EXCERPT FROM WIKIPEDIA ON INVISIBLE CHILDREN CRITICISMS:

Original Link

In an article analyzing why the Obama administration sent U.S. troops to Central Africa in October, 2012, the Council on Foreign Relations (C.F.R.) reproached groups like Invisible Children for “manipulat[ing] facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders”. Resolve, one of Invisible Children’s partner organizations, addressed the Council on Foreign Relations’ accusation as a “serious charge…published with no accompanying substantiation.” Jedediah Jenkins, the director of idea development for Invisible Children, maintained that the numbers of child abductions the charity uses are often the same numbers as the ones used by Human Rights Watch and the United Nations.

The C.F.R. article went on to say of organizations [like Invisible Children], “rarely refer to the Ugandan atrocities or those of Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army.” These thoughts were echoed in the Huffington Post, by Michael Diebert, author of Democratic Republic of Congo: Between Hope and Despair. Diebert explains that the Ugandan government itself used child soldiers to gain power. The Washington Post brought up criticism of the organization for A law they helped pass in 2009. The law was designed to help bring peace and stability to the region but, “Critics say it has strengthened the hand of the Ugandan president, whose security forces have a human rights abuse record of their own”. To these charges the Invisible Children Spokesperson said, “If we had the purity to say we will not partner with anyone corrupt, we couldn’t partner with anyone.”

The organization has been criticized for oversimplifying a complex issue. Following the release of the film Kony 2012, the group asserted that it hoped to explain the conflict in “an easily understandable format”, with CEO Ben Keesey adding that “There are few times where problems are black and white. There’s lots of complicated stuff in the world, but Joseph Kony and what he’s doing is black and white.”

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INVISIBLE CHILDREN FOUNDERS POSING WITH GUNS: AN INTERVIEW WITH THE PHOTOGRAPHER
By Elizabeth Flock
Washington Post
March 8, 2012

Original Link

Stop Kony 2012, an online campaign to raise awareness about Ugandan guerrilla leader Joseph Kony, went viral Wednesday, thanks to a 30-minute video about Kony’s group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has abducted and forced around 66,000 children to fight in his army over the past two decades.

However, the campaign quickly sparked questions not about Kony, but about the charity behind the video, Invisible Children.

One image propelled many of those questions.

The image showed the founders of Invisible Children — Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole, and Jason Russell — posing with guns alongside members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), who have fought against the LRA. On Wednesday, Vice magazine posted the photograph with the headline “Should I Donate Money to Kony 2012 or Not?”

The photograph was immediately criticized. A widely-cited student blog “Visible Children” called it an indication of Invisible Children’s emphasis on direct military intervention in Uganda. The Racialicious, a race and pop culture blog, said the photo helped paint a “picture of neo-colonialism.” Others quoted Chris Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, who wrote that Invisible Children’s program “hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden… the savior attitude.”

To get the story behind the photograph, I turned to Glenna Gordon. who captured the moment at the Sudan-Congo border during the 2008 peace talks while she was on assignment for the Associated Press. Hear her take on the Kony 2012 campaign after the jump.

The official Invisible Children response to the photo and other criticisms is also below. Watch the Kony 2012 video [above].

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Q. How did you happen to be there to take this photo?

Gordon: I was on assignment for the AP covering the 2008 peace talks between the Ugandan government and the LRA, and we were all sort of stuck at this small camp, in the same space, to wait for the talks to resume. There was nothing to do. I saw that the Invisible Children guys were [posing with guns], and I thought I should take some pictures.

Q. What were the reactions of the SPLA members standing with them?

Gordon: The SPLA were into it, because they were bored too. People were having a lot of fun videotaping it, taking Polaroids and posing with all of these guys. Everyone was into it.

I think I felt a lot of discomfort, but I didn’t say to stop it, which maybe I should have because if we were attacked by LRA then, the SPLA should have had guns in their hands.

Q. Invisible Children has received some criticism that their efforts and this photo seem “colonialist,” or hint at the “white man’s burden.” What do you say to that?

Gordon: I think all of those things are true. The photo plays into the myth that Invisible Children are very much actively trying to create. They even used the photo on their official response page. I don’t think they think there is a problem with the idea that they are colonial. This photo is the epitome of it, like, we are even going to hold your guns for you.

Q. What did you think of the Kony 2012 video?

Gordon: I can’t bring myself to watch the video. I found all of their previous efforts to be emotionally manipulative, and all the things I try as a journalist not to be. After the peace talks in 2008, they put out another video, and I saw the footage used in these videos blending archival footage with LRA and SPLA and videos of them goofing off. It was the most irresponsible act of image-making that I’d seen in a long time. They conflated the SPLA with the LRA. The SPLA is a government army, holding weapons given by the government, and yet they did not create any division between them and LRA. That’s terrible.

Q. How did you see other aid groups and Ugandans respond to Invisible Children while in Uganda?

Gordon: People who have lived there for years, bona fide aid workers who have studied foreign policy and other relevant fields like public health, who are really there because they are trying to solve problems — they see Invisible Children as trying to promote themselves and a version of the narrative.

Most Ugandans also think they are ridiculous. They say “Invisible Children! They seem pretty visible to me.” Even the name is so loaded.

In Uganda, Invisible Children has programs operating but I don’t want to speak to those because I don’t know them.

Q. The Kony 2012 campaign has made a lot of people aware of Joseph Kony. Do you think there will be a tangible impact of Kony 2012?

Gordon: The LRA isn’t even active in Uganda anymore, so we’re getting the issue to the spotlight with so much misinformation. I applaud efforts to bring humanitarian crises to the limelight, but if we do so with misinformation, we are sure to make mistakes. We need to do so with an eye toward accuracy and responsibility.

Q. The filmmaker of Kony 2012 featured his son in the video to help people understand the situation in Uganda. Do you think that contributed to the film’s success?

Yes, and I think that it is a legitimate comparison to make in the film between Ugandan and American kids. It’s a mistake to think that we shouldn’t have the same expectations for livelihood, education, etc. for children in both countries. And that idea may create more political will.

Q. Who do you think is doing good work on the ground? Which groups do you think have better answers about how to change what’s happening in Uganda?

I think there are a lot of reputable NGOs doing the daily business of development — the actual building of latrines, training of teachers, etc. Oxfam and IRC have great operations in Uganda. Lacor Hospital, Caritas Uganda, The Refugee Law Project, Christian Counseling Fellowship, and African Youth Initiative Network. I really hope that we can redirect the energy to these groups, as much as possible.

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Below, read Invisible Children’s official response to the photo:

“The photo of Bobby, Laren and I with the guns was taken in an LRA camp in DRC during the 2008 Juba Peace Talks. We were there to see Joseph Kony come to the table to sign the Final Peace Agreement. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was surrounding our camp for protection since Sudan was mediating the peace talks. We wanted to talk to them and film them and get their perspective. And because Bobby, Laren and I are friends and had been doing this for 5 years, we thought it would be funny to bring back to our friends and family a joke photo. You know, “Haha – they have bazookas in their hands but they’re actually fighting for peace.” The ironic thing about this photo is that I HATE guns. I always have. Back in 2008 I wanted this war to end, like we all did, peacefully, through peace talks. But Kony was not interested in that; he kept killing. And we still don’t want war. We don’t want him killed and we don’t want bombs dropped. We want him alive and captured and brought to justice.”

Read Invisible Children’s full response to criticisms of Kony 2012 here.

Read Gordon’s response to the photo on her blog, here.

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A MOVIE DIRECTORS THOUGHTFUL RESPONSE
By Jon Turteltaub
KONY 2012 Blog
March 8, 2012

Original Link

In response to a not-so-shiny article in Washington Post regarding Invisible Children and KONY 2012, director Jon Turteltaub wrote the following response to the author/interviewer & interviewee:

My name is Jon Turteltaub. I have directed several movies including both National Treasure films, Phenomenon and Cool Runnings. In spite of how much my mother loves my films, I have had more than my share of criticism in person and in the press for my films over the years. Whenever the negative comments got me down I could usually prop myself up a bit by saying “Who cares? It’s just a movie. Let them hate it. It just makes them petty to put into print such negative thoughts about something so unimportant.” But it wasn’t until reading your blog and interview with Glenna Gordon that I realized how much worse it is to criticize and belittle something so important as bringing peace to a region of Africa, saving the lives of children, and ending rape, murder and torture.

Really? Three young men who fly half way around the world to stop violence against children is something you feel the need to criticize? Three middle-class white guys risking their lives to stop a genocidal madman instead of hanging out at home and playing Angry Birds is something you feel needs to be brought down a notch? If even one person reads your article and decides not to help Invisible Children stop Joseph Kony what good have you done?

The picture shows some white guys holding guns with some black African soldiers… the STORY is that those three guys are inspiring an entire generation of young people to get active and to make positive changes in their world. The STORY is that Joseph Kony’s name is getting out there and that tens of millions of people are watching the video those guys made. The STORY is that even some goofballs from San Diego can change the world using media, the internet, and their hearts.

Not only have I been aware of and supportive of the work Invisible Children does… both as a filmmaker and as someone who has been to Northern Uganda and seen the damage inflicted on these families… but I am also the brother-in-law of another war photographer, Dan Eldon, who was killed while on assignment in Somalia. Very few people have had a greater impact on young people and their desire to make a positive change in the world. No young journalist ever sacrificed so much to shed light on the horrors of famine and war. And in my living room, I have a picture of my late brother-in-law… acting goofy, holding a gun and standing with local soldiers.

Apologizing to Invisible Children for an article created by you and Glenna Gordon is irrelevant. Apologizing to the kids being killed and raped because you thought it might be smart to bring down the people risking their own lives to save them makes more sense. Imagine yourself in Northern Uganda talking to a child who has been mutilated and saying, “Oh, I know about what happened to you. I even wrote a blog criticizing the people who were helping you! Maybe my blog slowed their support and kept aid from getting to you.”

If Invisible Children raises one less dollar, gets one less supporter, gets one more opponent because of your blog then you have to ask yourself what good you are doing in this world. You will tell yourself you’re a journalist who is “just putting it out there”… and at some point you will realize that in journalism and film making there is no such thing as “just putting it out there”. What you do with your blog has meaning to people. Don’t underestimate yourself. And if you want the point of your blog to be the criticism of people fighting tirelessly to make the world an undeniably better place, then in my opinion, you are supporting the exact kind of thing that all of us fighting for peace are struggling with: apathy, cynicism and ignorance.

If you want, criticize National Treasure… parts are too long, some of it is slow, a couple of things are confusing. Got it. That’s fine. But to unfairly and wrongly criticize these young men and their world of supporters for risking everything they have to save the lives of strangers, children and their families, and to give voice to another critic while doing so, is the worst kind of journalistic nonsense and personal irresponsibility. I’m sure you and Glenna remember when you were filled with optimism and enthusiasm at the thought of using your journalistic voice to make the world a better place. That’s where Invisible Children and its supporters live… and we should be proud and support their efforts, their successes and their courage.

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INVISIBLE CHILDRENS OFFICIAL RESPONSE
KONY 2012 Blog
March 8, 2012

Original Link

Thank you for reading this and doing further research about Invisible Children (IC) and KONY 2012. In response to this explosion of interest about the KONY 2012 film, there have been hundreds of thousands of comments in support of the arrest of Joseph Kony and the work of Invisible Children. However, there have also been pieces written that are putting out false or misleading information about these efforts.

This statement is our official response to some of these articles and is a source for accurate information about Invisible Children’s mission, financials and approach to stopping LRA violence.

Invisible Children’s mission is to stop LRA violence and support the war-affected communities in East and Central Africa. These are the three ways we achieve this mission; each is essential:

1) Make the world aware of the LRA. This includes making documentary films and touring them around the world so that they are seen for free by millions of people.

2) Channel energy from viewers of IC films into large-scale advocacy campaigns to stop the LRA and protect civilians.

3) Operate programs on the ground in LRA-affected areas that provide protection, rehabilitation and development assistance.

As you will see, we spend roughly one third of our money on each of these three goals. This three-prong approach is what makes Invisible Children unique. Some organizations focus exclusively on documenting human rights abuses, some focus exclusively on international advocacy or awareness, and some focus exclusively on on-the-ground development. We do all three. At the same time. This comprehensive model is intentional and has proven to be very effective.

We are committed, and always have been, to be 100% financially transparent and to communicate in plain language the mission of the organization so that everyone can make an informed decision about whether they want to support our strategy.

Re: Financials - Invisible Children’s financial statements are online for everyone to see. Financial statements from the last 5 years, including our 990, are available at www.invisiblechildren.com/financials. The organization spent 80.46% on our programs that further our three-fold mission; 16.24% on administration and management costs; and 3.22% on direct fundraising in Fiscal Year 2011. Invisible Children is independently audited every year and in full compliance with our 501(c)3 nonprofit status.

Below is a screen-shot from pages 35 and 36 of the 2011 Invisible Children annual report that detail our total expenses for Fiscal Year 2011. An expense statement by class is the way nonprofits present their expenses to the public because it’s the clearest way to show the purpose of different organizational expenses vs. a line item expense statement such as the one on page 6 of our Audited Financial Report. (Click to enlarge)

Re: Charity Navigator Rating - Charity Navigator gives Invisible Children 3 out of 4 stars. It’s gives our Programs its highest rating of 4 stars. Our Accountability and Transparency score is currently at 2 stars due to the fact that Invisible Children does not have 5 independent voting members on our board of directors — we currently have 4. We are in the process of interviewing potential board members, and we will add an additional independent member this year in order to regain our 4-star rating by 2013. We have been independently audited by Considine and Considine since Fiscal Year 2006, and all of our audits have resulted in unqualified opinions on the audit reports. An unqualified opinion means that the auditors believe the financial statements are free of material misstatement and are in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles of the United States.

Re: Better Business Bureau (BBB) - Participation in BBB’s program is voluntary — we are choosing to wait until we have expanded our Board of Directors, as some questions hinge on the size of our Board. The current Board is small in size and reflects Invisible Children’s grassroots foundation. We have now reached a juncture of success that has astonished even our greatest supporters. While it is important to retain a presence on the Board that reflects Invisible Children’s early beginnings, we are also working to expand the Board this year.

Re: Lobbying Efforts - Part of Invisible Children’s mission is advocacy, and we lobby within our 501(c)3 status. We have lobbied Congress on multiple occasions, but especially in 2009 and 2010 which led to the passage of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. We lobby all members of Congress, regardless of party affiliation. We do not endorse a political party.

Federal laws exist to encourage charities to lobby within certain specified limits and Invisible Children has been careful to stay within these legal limits. Each year, as part of our Form 990, we submit an additional schedule that provides the financial details surrounding Invisible Children’s involvement in lobbying. We have also elected 501(h) status — part of which is a commitment to continue to voluntarily report our lobbying expenditures to the IRS. The Invisible Children Form 990 and audited financials for the past several years can be found on our website at: http://www.invisiblechildren.com/financials.

The best researched paper supporting the policy position of the KONY 2012 campaign can be found here, drafted by Paul Ronan of Resolve.

But here are a few quick responses to some of the most common questions we’re seeing online:

Re: The strategy to secure Kony arrest - For more than two decades, Kony has refused opportunities to negotiate an end to the violence peacefully, and has used peace talks to build up his army’s strength through targeted abduction campaigns. Governments of countries where Kony has operated — including Uganda, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic — have been unable to capture Kony or bring him to justice. This is because regional governments are often not adequately committed to the task, but also because they lack some of the specific capabilities that would help them do so. The KONY 2012 campaign is calling for U.S. leadership to address both problems. It supports the deployment of U.S. advisers and the provision of intelligence and other support that can help locate and bring Kony to justice, but also increased diplomacy to hold regional governments accountable to their basic responsibilities to protect civilians from this kind of brutal violence. Importantly, the campaign also advocates for broader measures to help communities being affected by LRA attacks, such as increased funding for programs to help Kony’s abductees escape and return to their homes and families. For a clear understanding of the KONY 2012 political goals, please see the letter to President Obama (pdf).

Re: Ugandan government human rights record - We do not defend any of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Ugandan government or the Ugandan army (UPDF). None of the money donated through Invisible Children ever goes to the government of Uganda or any other government. Yet the only feasible and proper way to stop Kony and protect the civilians he targets is to coordinate efforts with regional governments.

Re: Stopping Kony - We are advocating for the arrest of Joseph Kony so that he can be tried by the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a precedent for future war criminals. The goal of KONY 2012 is for the world to unite to see Kony arrested and prosecuted for his crimes against humanity.

Re: Oversimplification of a complex issue - KONY 2012 portrays, in no uncertain terms, the image of a madman who manipulates children spiritually for his own tactical gains. In our quest to garner wide public support of nuanced policy, Invisible Children has sought to explain the conflict in an easily understandable format, focusing on the core attributes of LRA leadership that infringe upon the most basic of human rights. In a 30-minute film, however, many nuances of the 26-year conflict are admittedly lost or overlooked. The film is a first entry point to this conflict for many, and the organization provides several ways for our supporters to go deeper in learning about the make-up of the LRA and the history of the conflict. Likewise, our work on the ground continually adapts to the changing complexities of the conflict.

Re: Exaggerating the impact of the LRA and implying the war is in Uganda - Since the LRA left Uganda in 2006, Invisible Children has been publicly denouncing their atrocities in DR Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic (CAR), while continuing to work with now-peaceful communities in post-conflict northern Uganda. In September 2011, Invisible Children launched the LRA Crisis Tracker website with the aim of providing high-quality, verified information about LRA attacks in DR Congo, South Sudan, and CAR. A detailed methodology is available on this website that explains how information is collected, verified, and rated in terms of its accuracy and reliability. Every incident that is reported through the Early Warning Radio Network run by Invisible Children’s partner organizations is carefully verified with other actors in DR Congo and CAR before being published to the LRA Crisis Tracker; even after publishing, incidents on the website continue to be modified as — and when — further information becomes available. Each incident is rated according to two criteria, on a scale of 1 to 5: whether an incident has actually occurred, and whether it was committed by the LRA. In this way, Invisible Children is providing concrete data and helping to dispel unfounded rumours about LRA attacks.

Re: Perpetuating the ‘White Man’s Burden’ and the savior complex - Invisible Children’s programs in Uganda, DR Congo, and Central African Republic are implemented with continuous input from, and in respect of the knowledge and experience of, local communities and their leaders. In Uganda, we learned very quickly that a top-down, Western approach was not the answer, and that local solutions were needed to fill critical humanitarian gaps. It is for this reason that over 95% of IC’s leadership and staff on the ground are Ugandans on the forefront of program design and implementation. In DR Congo, Invisible Children works with the Commission diocesaine justice et paix (CDJP), supporting projects that have been identified as priorities by local partners and that are responsive to local realities and needs. Invisible Children staff members in project areas consistently strive to ensure that they build the capacity of local partners and do not take on duties where local partners can more responsibly and effectively carry these out; the organization meticulously monitors and evaluates the impact of its work on the ground, partnering with Princeton in Africa and employing qualified Monitoring & Evaluation professionals.

Re: The photo of the founders with the guns - A story told by Jason Russell: Let me start by saying that that photo was a bad idea. We were young and we got caught up in the moment. It was never meant to reflect on the organization. The photo of Bobby, Laren and I with the guns was taken in an LRA camp in DRC during the 2008 Juba Peace Talks. We were there to see Joseph Kony come to the table to sign the Final Peace Agreement. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was surrounding our camp for protection since Sudan was mediating the peace talks. We wanted to talk to them and film them and get their perspective. And because Bobby, Laren and I are friends and had been doing this for 5 years, we thought it would be funny to bring back to our friends and family a joke photo. You know, “Haha – they have bazookas in their hands but they’re actually fighting for peace.” The ironic thing about this photo is that I HATE guns. I always have. Back in 2008 I wanted this war to end, like we all did, peacefully, through peace talks. But Kony was not interested in that; he kept killing. And we still don’t want war. We don’t want him killed and we don’t want bombs dropped. We want him alive and captured and brought to justice.

Re: Programs on the Ground - While the vast majority of the recent exposure and commentary about Invisible Children has been towards the awareness portion of our mission, below is an up-to-date explanation of our work in Central Africa, an equally important element to the mission of Invisible Children.

INVISIBLE CHILDREN’S PROGRAM IN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC AND SOUTH SUDAN:

Invisible Children is committed to supporting communities affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army by empowering local leaders to implement programs that have a lasting impact. Our work in Uganda is focused on assisting in the recovery of northern Uganda after being decimated by two decades of conflict, while in DR Congo and the Central African Republic we are working with local partners to protect communities, encourage peaceful LRA surrenders and support the victims of the conflict.

HF EARLY WARNING RADIO NETWORK:

To address the lack of information from the most vulnerable and remote communities, Invisible Children partnered with Commission Diocesaine Justice et Paix (CDJP), led by Abbe Benoit and internationally recognized Congolese human rights advocate for LRA issues, to expand an Early Warning Radio Network connecting communities to one another through twice-daily security and humanitarian reporting. This network utilizes high frequency radios to allow for advanced warning of LRA activity. It also provides the humanitarians that are delivering life-saving services and the groups involved in civilian protection with real-time information. Communities participating in the project were selected due to their susceptibility to LRA attack and their lack of the communication infrastructure necessary to report and receive security information. A Local Protection Committee is established in each community to gather and disseminate information, provide regular maintenance to the equipment, and to ensure that trained operators in each community are carrying out the daily reporting,

This project connects communities with local and international humanitarian groups, ultimately allowing for heightened humanitarian response while limiting the LRA’s ability to attack without warning. Through Invisible Children’s support, there are now 27 communities linked into the HF Early Warning Network in Haut and Bas Uele.

FM Radio: FM radio is one of the few ways to directly reach LRA combatants across central Africa with messaging encouraging them — many of whom are unwilling combatants — to escape. Invisible Children partnered with UN DDR/RR and Interactive Radio for Justice (IRfJ) to increase the capacity of Radio Zereda, a community-run FM radio in Obo, Central African Republic, from 1km to an over 30-km radius. Through locally-produced radio programming, members the victims’ association in Obo and cultural leaders from LRA-affected regions share insight and sensitize local populations to the LRA’s activities. In conjunction with sensitization, programming directly targeting nearby LRA groups and is broadcast in both the local Pazande and Acholi languages to encourage and give instructions for peaceful surrender.

In 2011, Invisible Children also provided support to repair Radio Rhinoceros in Faradje, DR Congo, and provided monetary support for a DDR/RR mobile FM unit deployed on rotation in Haut Uele. Additional community-FM projects in Haut Uele and in the highly remote and vulnerable district of Bas Uele are being identified and assessed for support during the 2012 calendar year.

LRA Crisis Tracker: The LRA Crisis Tracker is a real-time mapping platform and data collection system created to bring an unprecedented level of transparency to the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Using information sourced from Invisible Children’s Early Warning Radio Network, UN agencies, and local NGOs, this tool allows for better response from governments, policymakers, and humanitarian organizations. This joint project, developed by Invisible Children and Resolve, marks the first time data surrounding the crisis has been comprehensively aggregated and made publicly available.

REHABILITATION CENTER:

As abductions continue throughout Central Africa, Invisible Children is partnering with renowned LRA-trauma specialist, Els de Temmerman, and the leadership of CDJP-Dungu, to establish the first trauma-focused rehabilitation program in the LRA-affected regions of northeastern Congo. Invisible Children, using its construction expertise from our education programs in Uganda, built the center with local labor and largely local materials. The center, located in Dungu, is locally managed and provides one-on-one counseling, utilizing a variety of therapy approaches adapted to each youth, including UNICEF-approved Narrative Exposure Therapy (NET). The center provides vocational and life skills training, school catch-up programs, and reunification services. Upon completion of the second phase of construction, the center will have capacity for up to 250 children and youth to reside at the center where they will receive holistic counseling services, which are also available for less-severe outpatient cases. Currently, a limited number of severely traumatized children are receiving treatment while the center builds staff capacity and develops systems. Full capacity is targeted for Fall 2012. Program management will continue to coordinate with both local and international NGOs and UN agencies to ensure that the center’s activities are utilized by, and fit within, the regional psychosocial and protection strategies.

Invisible Children’s Programs in Uganda: Promoting peace and prosperity through Education and Livelihood initiatives

Legacy Scholarship Program (LSP): The scholarship provides fully paid, merit-based scholarships and mentoring from local full-time Invisible Children Mentors. Students are selected based on academic potential and need.

Stats as of December 2011:
University students: 250
Secondary students: 590 (currently recruiting additional students)

Schools for Schools (S4S): This program partners with 11 secondary schools and their surrounding communities in northern Uganda, working on projects that both build and renovate structures, while also investing in teachers and curriculum. The program also facilitates a yearly Teacher Exchange Program benefiting both Ugandan and international educators.

Stats as of December 2011:
Partner schools: 11
Students attending partner schools: 9,048

Livelihood Program: The Livelihood Program takes a holistic approach to providing sustainable economic growth and improved living conditions for war-affected northern Ugandans. It impacts rural communities using a three-pronged approach: over 1,250 community members are saving and loaning together, participating in our Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLA) program; 5,000 community members are benefiting from clean water and health and sanitation initiatives through the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) program; and over 1,000 people are receiving training on numeracy, reading, and writing in their local language as a part of our Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) program.

Stats as of December 2011:
WASH: over 5,000 (20 communities with an average of 250 community members)
VSLA: 1,250 community members (50 groups of 25-30 members each)
FAL: 1,000 community members (50 groups of 20-25 members each)

These are the stats used by the KONY 2012 film and campaign:

30,000+ children abducted in Uganda by the LRA. Source (2007)
66,000 youth (interviewed when 14-30 years old) abducted by the LRA. Source (2006)
2.1 million people displaced in Uganda. Source (2010)
440,000 people displaced in DRC, CAR, and South Sudan. Source (2011)

Re: On a personal note

We’ve done our utmost to be as inclusive, transparent, and factual as possible. We built this organization with “seeing is believing” in mind, and that’s what why we are a media-based organization. We WANT you to see everything we are doing, because we are proud of it. Though we would no longer consider ourselves naive, we have always sought counsel from those who know much more. We have never claimed a desire to “save Africa,” but, instead, an intent to inspire Western youth to “do more than just watch.” And in Central Africa, focus on locally-led long-term development programs that enable children to take responsibility for their own futures and the futures of their countries. Our programs are carefully researched and developed initiatives by incredible members of the local community that address the need for quality education, mentorship, the redevelopment of schools, resettlement from IDP camps, and rehabilitation from war. If you know anyone who has been there to see it first hand, there is no doubt they will concur. Also, we have invited you to join us on www.LRACrisisTracker.com, which we established as a way to bring you near real-time reports from the ground, making available to the public the same information received by humanitarians working on the ground.

But, credibility in the eyes of policymakers, fellow non-profit workers, LRA-affected communities, and YOU is our most important asset, so we would like to encourage you, if you have critiques, to get specific: find facts, dig deeper, and we’ll gladly continue the conversation from there. If encountering something you disagree with, suggest an alternative to what we are doing- and we will absolutely take heed. If it’s a matter of opinion, taste, humor, or style: we apologize, and will have to agree to disagree. As the poet Ke$ha says, “we are who we are.”

Let’s focus on what matters, and what we DO agree on: Joseph Kony needs to be stopped. And when that happens, peace is the limit. This is the beautiful beginning of an ending that is just the beginning. We are defending tomorrow. And it’s hopeful.

………………

1 comment

  1. Egmond Petzoldt

    This is pure propaganda and shameless manipulation. To milk the crimes of a relatively small warlord and play on people’s helplessness and guilt in Hollywood style has one purpose : to get people ready for special troops in Africa and yet another war. More prescence of the US is less prescence of the Chinese. Don’t be fooled about the intent!

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