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Tuesday, June 18, 2013
To donate, or not to donatePosted Tuesday, March 20, 2012, at 8:18 AM
Invisible Children's Kony 2012 video has received a massive amount of attention since its debut over a week ago. Nearly 78 million people, including myself, have viewed the controverisial half-hour documentary on YouTube.
Haven't watched it yet? Here's the short version: Joseph Kony, a Ugandan war lord, is a sick and evil man. He's abducted some 20,000 children in the past 26 years, forcing them to become child soldiers in the Lord's Resistance Army or sex slaves. Most current estimates guess Kony has a few hundred children with him.
Invisible Children, a San Diego non-profit advocacy/awareness organization, has rallied for viewers to donate to their cause and contact politicians to urge them to take necessary steps to take down Kony.
For a $30 donation, one can receive a Kony 2012 bracelet, buttons, a few stickers and two posters. Since the film's debut, Invisible Children has raised $15 million from selling these action kits.
Is buying this kit really going to make a difference? Yes, it will, to some degree.
Invisible Children has undergone intense scrutiny in the past few days about their finances, prompting CEO Ben Keesy to release a video reply on Monday. About 37 percent of donations fund programs in Central Africa, such as schools and an emergency radio system. The other 63 percent goes to salaries, overhead and advocacy campaigns.
Jedidiah Jenkins, Invisible Children's Director of Ideology, said the organization does not exist to deliver shoes or food; rather, they deliver advocacy and awareness.
Is that the best way to spend money? Shouldn't more than 37 percent of donations go to aid?
But then again comes the question - are we, as wealthy Americans, qualified to swoop in and solve Africa's problems? Did anyone ask the Ugandans what they think?
The Guardian did, and investigated what people in the heart of the LRA's territory thought of the film.
Victor Ochen, director of African Youth Initative Network, arranged a screening of the documentary in Northern Uganda. Following the film, viewers became outraged, especially over Invisible Children's use of merchandise, such as posters and bracelets emblazoned with "KONY 2012."
"It was very hurtful for them and their families to see posters, bracelets and buttons, all looking like slick campaign ads of the person most responsible for their shattered lives," Ochen said. "One man who lost four brothers and one of his arms said afterwards: 'How can anybody expect me to wear a T-shirt with Kony's name on it?'"
He continued, "That fame is not what Kony deserves for causing so much suffering was one overwhelming reaction. People were asking: Why give such criminals celebrity status? Why not prioritize addressing the plight of victims whose sufferings are visible?"
During Keesy's response film, he said there's one thing critics and supporters alike can agree upon: Joseph Kony must be stopped. The Kony 2012 video has certainly done a good job of capturing attention.
It remains to be seen whether the campaign is causing more hurt than good. Perhaps the campaign will spur political activism, ensuring Kony's capture by the end of the year, and perhaps not; however, there is one important thing to remember.
There will always be Joseph Konys.
* Ashley is a member of the Pilot-Tribune news staff. Reach the columnist at firstname.lastname@example.org