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article imageOp-Ed: Is the 'Kony 2012 Stop At Nothing' movement the right one?

By KJ Mullins     Mar 8, 2012 in World
There is no doubt that Uganda's Joseph Kony is a bad man. He's #1 on the ICC's most wanted people for global crimes against humanity. His name is on the tips of everyone's tongues because of a viral video, "Kony 2012, Stop At Nothing."
Joseph Kony runs the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). It is known for their child soldiers, children taken from their parents. He is from Uganda whose own army is known for having child soldiers. Both armies are alleged to have raped and looted communities, leaving the dead and maimed in their path.
Kony has been ousted from Uganda, it's not clear at this point where in the deep jungle he and his army of children are.
However, is the group behind the video on the up and up?
The video Stop At Nothing is currently going viral on social media. The message is an important one, children being recruited to be child soldiers in Africa. These children are ripped from their childhood and turned into little monsters aimed to the teeth. If they don't fight they are killed. Girls are taken from their homes to become the sex slaves of the army. The video was put out by Invisible Children, Inc.
Invisible Children, Inc uses film to draw attention to Joseph Kony and his army. It is driven by a mostly youth based group.
The group started in 2003 when three filmmakers went to Africa to film the genocide in Darfur but found a conflict that hadn't captured the public's eye about the LRA in Uganda. There have been questions about the group's financial records that are now being risen since their video campaign went viral.
As of 2011 according to an independent audit the group's assets total over $6.9 million.
According to Charity Navigator Invisible People, Inc had over $10.3 million in contributions in 2011 and a total revenue of over $13.7 million. Their operating expenses were just under $8.9 million including $1.4 million for administrative expenses in 2011. The salaries of the leaders of the group, Ben Keesey, Jason Russell and Laren Poole were in the high 80K range. Compared to other charities doing similar work they had an overall rating of 51.52. It should be noted that was one of the lowest ratings given.
In the viral video much is being said about the United States sending troops to arrest Joseph Kony. It almost appears that Invisible Children, Inc was the only group lobbying for Kony's capture in Washington D.C. The fact is since the early 2000s there has been outrage about the plight of children in Uganda with a focus on Kony, although not as vocal as the current movement. A study by the World Health Organization in 2005 highlighted that in the Acholi region alone there were 1,000 deaths a week.
In late 2008 the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) attempted to push the LRA out but was not successful. One of the reasons for the failure was that the Ugandan military officers did not have the training nor equipment to success in their mission. In fact that mission, Operation Lighting Thunder, actually heightened the operations of the LRA. In January and February 2009 there were 700 people abducted, mostly children, in the area and another 1,000 killed. Kony's area widened stretching from southern Darfur to parts of South Sudan and northern Congo. Those who suffered most where the local people caught between the armies and the rebel groups. Civilian protections was one element that the mission had overlooked.
In October 2011 President Obama announced that the United States would be sending troops to Uganda to kill-or-capture Kony. It should be noted though that many of the regions religious leaders are opposed to having the United States mission.
Invisible Children, Inc is responding to some of the questions now being raised. On their website they have put their financial statements for the past five years. The group has not participated in the BBB program because they are waiting to have an expanded Board of Directors.
"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 the camps, and rehabilitation from war - and 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, 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."- blog post at Invisible People
As for the viral video, in the end it does a very positive thing in bringing the acts of Joseph Kony into the light. It however doesn't take the time to explain that the government's army does much the same as Kony's army of children does. Attempting to right one wrong with another wrong equals a wrong.
Raising a voice to those whose voices have been silenced is always a positive. While there are critics on both sides of this issue bringing world-wide attention to the plight of these children is note worthy. In the end a voice that breaks through the darkness shatters the chains and brings forth a chance to make a positive difference.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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