Kony 2012: A Breakdown of the Controversial Campaign

Where do you stand?
Joseph Kony art featured in Invisible Children's ‘Kony 2012’ video. (Photo: Invisible Children/YouTube)
Mar 8, 2012
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

In just three days, nearly 40 million people have watched Invisible Children's Kony 2012 video on YouTube. If you're not familiar with the video, it is part of a campaign that aims to raise support for the arrest of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army. This brutal militant group has been terrorizing communities across central Africa for over 25 years.

While Invisible Children is receiving quite a bit of support for its campaign, its practices, message, and financials are being challenged. In question: why its Transparency and Accountability score on Charity Navigator is only two stars; why only 32 percent of the nonprofit's funding goes directly to its recovery and rehabilitation services in Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic, and South Sudan; and whether or not its well-produced 30-minute video and corresponding campaign oversimplifies a very complex issue.

Invisible Children responded to the criticism on Thursday morning. Here are a few key points. You can read the full statement here.

Invisible Children Responses to the Charity Navigator score:

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.

To Oversimplifying the Issue:

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.

The Guardian is investigating the criticisms, specifically those related to the film's message and implications. They have featured interviews with advocates, experts and critics across the globe. Here are differing opinions from experts and journalists working in Uganda and Congo:

Victor Ochen, the Director of African Youth Initiative Network (AYInet) based in Lira, Uganda, told The Guardian:

They are focusing more on an American solution to an African conflict than the holistic approach which should include regional governments and people who are very key to make this a success. Every war has its own victims. They are advocating for a mechanism to end war with more attention to a perpetrator not victims. Campaigning on killing one man and that's the end is not enough.

Ida Sawyer is a Congo researcher with Human Rights Watch. She has studied the Lord's Resistance Army for several years. Here's a snippet from her take on Invisible Children's work in Congo:

I think Invisible Children is starting some of the best work there, in terms of setting up the early warning mechanism. The system relies on a two-way radio network, They're training these two-way radio monitors who can report immediately when there's LRA presence or there's an attack....some of the quickest organizations to respond to the needs on the ground, very flexible and willing to work with and listen to the local communities.

Barbara Among, a Ugandan journalist at the Independent Daily Monitor, was offended by the campaign. Here's what she has to say:

To me even a bullet alone isn't good enough for Kony, killing him alone will not be enough. There are many people who are caught up in this war. Invisible Children has good access to international media but they have no connection with the community they claim to represent.

Taking all this into consideration, Invisible Children calls what they are doing a "movement," and over the last few days, this movement has reached millions of people all over the world. While opinions and rebuttals are surfacing all over the web, we want to know what you think. Share your thoughts on the Kony 2012 campaign in the comments below.

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