Joseph Kony and the invisible children-A A +A
Saturday, March 10, 2012
EVEN though the title for this article sounds more like the title of a children’s book than anything else, trust me, Kony’s story is not for kids.
If you haven’t heard about this guy yet, you either don’t have Facebook or you’re not friends with anyone who cares about Kony or what he does.
There is currently a viral awareness campaign launched by the Invisible Children nonprofit organization through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites advertising the name of Joseph Kony – a Ugandan warlord – and urging the world to stop him and his war crimes, which include murder, mutilation, rape and cannibalism.
Kony is the leader of the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army, a militia group that seeks to bring Uganda under Kony’s control and establish the Ten Commandments as the basis of the law.
Kony believes himself to be a messenger of God, and used to attack in cross-shaped formations after holy oil was sprinkled on his followers - as he believed this to be a form of protection against bullets.
What the Invisible Children group is really complaining about is Kony’s methods – this African warlord, like so many others in so many conflicts, abducts children from their villages, forces them to kill their own families, and uses them as child soldiers if they are boys or sex slaves if they are girls.
Kony and his rebel militia have been operating in Uganda since the 1980s, but the Ugandan government still hasn’t caught him. The Invisible Children group believes that US intervention is necessary to find and arrest Kony, which is why they urge everyone who hears their message to either write to their congressman (if they are in the US), or donate money to support their cause.
Now here’s where it gets a little tricky – the Invisible Children group wants US troops to advise the Ugandan national army so they can capture a recruiter of child soldiers, even though the Ugandans use child soldiers themselves. Kony hasn’t even been active in Uganda since 2006 and has since moved on to parts of the Congo and Southern Sudan.
And donations to the Invisible Children are more or less misused by the organization themselves – by their own admission, only 31% of the funds they receive from donations and sales actually go to helping anyone. The rest of the money goes to the pockets of the three founding members. The group refuses to allow its financials to be independently audited, thus giving it a reputation of being a “very shady” nonprofit organization. Most of their funding goes to the group’s travel expenses (over $1 million last year) and their filmmaking business (another cool $1 million).
The group is in favor of old-fashioned “boots-on-the-ground” military intervention, and some of the money that they make goes to supporting any African national army that seeks to arrest Kony, even though some of these armies are involved in war crimes, rapes and genocides themselves.
Take the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army for example – this particular former militia group now serves as the national army for Southern Sudan, a newly created state that was formed out of the war-torn Republic of the Sudan, where it deployed thousands of child soldiers in a conflict marked by genocide and civilian deaths.
The Invisible Children group also supports the Ugandan army, which also uses child soldiers and is responsible for war crimes of its own, including rapes and civilian deaths.
So what am I saying here? I’m saying that it helps to find out a little bit more about a cause you plan to support, and it also helps to judge who the greater evil is. If one warlord dies, another one pops up in his place – and if you support a charity group that misuses its money, wouldn’t you be better off donating to someone more legitimate who fights for the same cause?
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on March 10, 2012.