Invisible Children’s short film highlighting the dire plight of children in Uganda has received tens of millions of views since it was uploaded on YouTube this week, but it has also generated questions about the organization itself.
The film, Kony 2012, highlights the actions of Ugandan guerrilla group leader Joseph Kony, whose group, the Lord’s Resistance Army, kidnaps and forces children to fight to instill a new theocratic government in Uganda. The film is part of the group’s overall “Stop Kony” movement.
Directed by Jason Russell, Kony 2012 follows some of the children affected by Kony, and contrasts them against Russell’s own son, Gavin. The results are tear jerking, to say the least.
Invisible Children effectively used social media to make the video go super viral, while also enlisting the aid of big time celebrities such as George Clooney and Angelina Jolie. Singer Rihanna has also reached out to the group to offer her help in raising awareness.
But according to The Hollywood Reporter, the situation depicted in Kony 2012 is oversimplified, and fails to point out that the government Kony seeks to overthrow have committed heinous civil rights atrocities themselves, including using child soldiers. Not to mention that Kony isn’t even in Uganda any longer.
The Daily What calls Invisible Children “an extremely shady nonprofit,” spending only 31% of the money it raises on charitable help with over $1 million last year going to travel expenses alone.
Invisible Children responded to the criticism saying that over 80% of the money spent goes to furthering their “three-fold mission” in some way, and that they are in “full compliance” with their 501(c)3 nonprofit status. They state the three parts of their mission as:
Make the world aware of the LRA. This includes making documentary films and touring them around the world so that they are seen for free by millions of people.
Channel energy from viewers of IC films into large-scale advocacy campaigns to stop the LRA and protect civilians.
Operate programs on the ground in LRA-affected areas that provide protection, rehabilitation and development assistance.
THR reports that Don Cheadle, who became a staunch activist raising awareness of genocide in Africa after starring in Hotel Rwanda, took to Twitter to express his skepticism about the video.
“The truth often lies somewhere betwixt and between what’s proffered,” Cheadle said. “You must use your critical minds and innate instincts to decide for yourselves while leaving open the possibility to understand more as more is understood.”
“I believe in Ugandans solving Ugandan’s problems,” he added. “We need to be wary of traditionally paternalistic attitudes toward other nations and make sure we are acting as ‘helpers’ not encroachers.”
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