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What is the connection between an American independent filmmaker and a Ugandan guerrilla group leader? See the short film he made to explain, and watch one guy's attempt to, in no uncertain terms, change the course of human history... which some say is little more than a viral advertisement for a shady charity that favors one dictatorship over another?
And then what happens when the Internet proper does due-diligence on the filmmakers and fact-checks what's really going on in Africa? Is there just one bad guy, or a bunch, including several administrations using African warlords as a way to whip up military intervention to secure oil reserves?
While one would think such a politically-correct movement: stop children from being murdered, would not have its detractors, there is some controversy relating to the charity group behind this action, Invisible Children, who are accused of only using a small percentage of the donations to directly help the cause, and there's more concern that money is being funneled to the Ugandan military, which is arguably no more responsible or moral than Joseph Kony. However, I feel it's important to raise the social issue and have people explore the details themselves.
From The Daily What (http://tumblr.thedailywh.at/post/18909727859/on-kony-2012-i-honestly-wanted-to-stay-as-far):
The organization behind Kony 2012 — Invisible Children Inc. — is an extremely shady nonprofit that has been called ”misleading,” “naive,” and “dangerous” by a Yale political science professor, and has been accused by Foreign Affairs of “manipulat[ing] facts for strategic purposes.” They have also been criticized by the Better Business Bureau for refusing to provide information necessary to determine if IC meets the Bureau’s standards.
Additionally, IC has a low two-star rating in accountability from Charity Navigator because they won’t let their financials be independently audited. That’s not a good thing. In fact, it’s a very bad thing, and should make you immediately pause and reflect on where the money you’re sending them is going.
By IC’s own admission, only 31% of all the funds they receive go toward actually helping anyone [pdf]. The rest go to line the pockets of the three people in charge of the organization, to pay for their travel expenses (over $1 million in the last year alone) and to fund their filmmaking business (also over a million) — which is quite an effective way to make more money, as clearly illustrated by the fact that so many can’t seem to stop forwarding their well-engineered emotional blackmail to everyone they’ve ever known.
And as far as what they do with that money:
The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.
Let’s not get our lines crossed: The Lord’s Resistance Army is bad news. And Joseph Kony is a very bad man, and needs to be stopped. But propping up Uganda’s decades-old dictatorship and its military arm, which has been accused by the UN of committing unspeakable atrocities and itself facilitated the recruitment of child soldiers, is not the way to go about it.
The United States is already plenty involved in helping rout Kony and his band of psycho sycophants. Kony is on the run, having been pushed out of Uganda, and it’s likely he will soon be caught, if he isn’t already dead. But killing Kony won’t fix anything, just as killing Osama bin Laden didn’t end terrorism. The LRA might collapse, but, as Foreign Affairs points out, it is “a relatively small player in all of this — as much a symptom as a cause of the endemic violence.”
Myopically placing the blame for all of central Africa’s woes on Kony — even as a starting point — will only imperil many more people than are already in danger.
Sending money to a nonprofit that wants to muck things up by dousing the flames with fuel is not helping. Want to help? Really want to help? Send your money to nonprofits that are putting more than 31% toward rebuilding the region’s medical and educational infrastructure, so that former child soldiers have something worth coming home to.
Here are just a few of those charities. They all have a sparkling four-star rating from Charity Navigator, and, more importantly, no interest in airdropping American troops armed to the teeth into the middle of a multi-nation tribal war to help one madman catch another.
The bottom line is, research your causes thoroughly. Don’t just forward a random video to a stranger because a mass murderer makes a five-year-old “sad.” Learn a little bit about the complexities of the region’s ongoing strife before advocating for direct military intervention.
There is no black and white in the world. And going about solving important problems like there is just serves to make all those equally troubling shades of gray invisible.
But there is more:
Additional details Posted by NoK on 2012-03-07 14:17:16
"The problems with the 'Kony 2012' campaign: Ok so let's get this out of the way first, the basic idea of the campaign is great, to raise awareness of a war criminal that uses children as soldiers and sex slaves. Unfortunately the whole campaign seems to be missing the bigger political picture, I think this is nicely demonstrated in the statement of its second goal: 'That the U.S. military advisers support the Ugandan Army until Kony has been captured and the LRA has been completely disarmed. They need to follow through all the way and finish what they have started.'
This statement not only suggests that the campaign is in favour of U.S. intervention but is completely uncritical of the Ugandan Government and its army, both of whom are by no means 'the good guys' in this. I can't be bothered going into too much detail but here are a few key points:
1) The Ugandan Government is a dictatorship with Yoweri Museveni as the president since 1986. Among many of its human rights violations the regime tortures prisons, oppresses other political parties and the press and also wishes to introduce a bill that would have 'convicted homosexuals' put to death.
2) In the civil war in which Yoweri Museveni gained power child soldiers were used by his army (National Resistance Army) which is now the army of Uganda but under a different name. (http://www.teachkidspeace.org/doc315.php)
3) The Ugandan army, or rather its high ranking officers have being using 'ghost soldiers' (soldiers who are no longer on the pay-roll) to siphon off funds, making the war even more profitable for them than usual, giving them a vested interest in its continuation. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3514473.stm)
4) (kinda the same point again) War is profitable, especially for large arms economies such as the U.S. and the UK. 'U.S. Military adviser support' may as well say 'we want to US and its arms manufactures /dealers to sell the Ugandan Government shit tons more weapons'.
I'm sure there's many more points that could be made, and this is still a really basic explanation that barely goes into any detail, but even a single one of these points is enough to be critical of the campaign and its support of the Ugandan army. If the campaign really wants to be truly supportive of human rights it needs to recognise that Kony is not the only war criminal, all warmongering is a crime against humanity"
Posted by Mariod505 on 2012-03-07 14:21:30
I went through their financials yesterday, and I'd like to share with you my concerns...
Of the $8.9 million in donations they spent in 2011, this is the breakdown:
$1.7 million in US employee salaries
$357,000 in Film costs
$850,000 in Production costs
$751,000 in Computer equipment
$244,000 in "professional services" (DC lobbyists)
$1.07 million in travel expenses
$400,000 in yearly office rent in downtown San Diego
$16,000 in Entertainment
Only 2.8 million (31%) made it to their charity program (which is further whittled down by local Ugandan government officials) - what do the children actually get?
Source on page 6 and 12 of their own financial report
Their rating on Charity Navigator is because they haven't had their financial books independently audited, and have no independent board members ...which is not a surprising given the use of cash noted above.
Posted by Oldngrumpy on 2012-03-13 10:36:44
If the stated purpose of this charity were to directly feed and clothe the refugees and children the spending record would be abysmal. However, it was stated in the film that the objective is, at present, raising awareness of their plight. From this perspective the spending appears more legitimate. The goal of elimination or capture of a war criminal with his own army is not one to be directly undertaken by any charity, and must be approached by raising a collective voice of the people. The spending listed here is in line with that objective.
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