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Invisible Children: Kony 2012

Posted on the 08 March 2012 by ---

The effort launched by Invisible Children to apprehend Joseph Kony, the world's most wanted man for crimes against humanity, is perhaps the most viral activism campaign ever.  I've waited a little for the initial flurry of excitement to abate before writing this so that I could get as balanced a picture as possible.  The original video is to the right for your viewing pleasure.  I recommend watching all 30 minutes of its emotional appeal so that you can judge for yourself.  Additionally, here are all of the pertinent articles I read that shaped my conclusions.  If you know of any other good ones, please post them in the comments.

  • Response from The Daily What
  • Response from Foreign Policy magazine
  • Response Tumblr: Visible Children
  • Rebuttal to criticism from Invisible Children

After reviewing the information, here's my position:
Some of the criticisms of Invisible Children are valid; some are less valid.  I found that the organization's rebuttal did a very good job at putting a lot of the peripheral concerns to rest.  However, it did not do as well on the central concerns that I have about the nature of the organization.  The actual proposal from Invisible Children seemed lost amid the flashy graphics of the video.  It is, basically, a proposal for 100 US troops to remain in Africa and for the Ugandan military to lead the mission to arrest Kony.  This is a bad idea, as some have pointed out before me.  The Ugandan army has a history rife with corruption, rape, murder, pillaging, and its own crimes against humanity.  These problems are not yet behind it as an institution.  Although Invisible Children claims it does not support everything the Ugandan military has done, it stands by its assertion that the military is in the best position to bring Kony to justice.  False.  Because Joseph Kony's LRA is no longer in Uganda, the army will have to cross borders and infringe on other nations' territories, potentially creating international tension.  The complexity of regional politics cannot be overstated.
The most effective way to stop Kony is to push hard for a peacekeeping mission from the United Nations or, more feasibly, the African Union - one that is not unilateral or bilateral, but represents the international community coming together to accomplish this common goal.  Actually, such a mission also seems more in sync with the stated values of Invisible Children.
Joseph Kony has done repulsive and destructive things, but he is by no means in the same league as Hitler or Pol Pot.  He does need an international trial.  But there is a right way to go about this and a wrong way.  Invisible Children has played a vital role in raising awareness, but their solutions leave a lot to be desired.  Please, do not spend $30 on an action kit.  According to Invisible Children's own financial reports, only about $11.14 (37.14%) of your money will support Central African programs like building schools or warning villagers.  Other charities working in the same region spend a greater percentage of their money in direct aid, and you can find them on  Please let me know your perspective on this chain of events so that we can have a discussion in the comments.

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