By now, I'm sure you've all seen this Kony 2012 video on your Facebook news feed:
The video was made by the group Invisible Children. And despite its apparent popularity on my newsfeed, the group has some pretty strong critics (see a roundup of some of them on Jezebel).
I am not an expert on Kony and the LRA in Uganda. So instead of giving you my thoughts, I've copied an email my friend Daniel Katz wrote about the popularity of Invisible Children's latest film. Daniel worked in Uganda from the fall of 2009 through summer 2011.
In Daniel's words:
I take pride in the fact that
I take a well-reasoned, fact-based approach to forming opinions. When I
arrived in Uganda in September of 2009 and immediately began hearing
scathing reviews of Invisible Children, I admonished everyone I spoke to
to be sure they were basing their opinions on data and primary sources.
After two years of working in the economic development field in Uganda,
I am so frustrated with Invisible Children that even the mention of the
organization causes in me a quite uncharacteristic immediate response
of total and complete ire. This is something I could vent ad nauseum
about, but to save everyone else the time and myself the mental anguish,
I'll keep it short:
Deaths attributed to LRA
attacks in 2011 (countries affected: Democratic Republic of the Congo,
South Sudan, Central African Republic): 120
278 attacks, 302 abductions, 56 wounded
- United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
"LRA Regional Update: Central African Republic, DR Congo and South Sudan: January - December 2011"
Deaths due to HIV/AIDS in Uganda in 2009: 64,000
- UNAIDS Joing UN Programme on HIV/AIDS "UNAIDS Report on the global
AIDS epidemic 2010": "ANNEX 1 HIV AND AIDS ESTIMATES AND DATA 2009 AND
Deaths due to malaria in
2008: 103 per 1m population. Using 2012 CIA World Factbook 2012
population estimate of 35,873,253 = ~37,000
- World Health Organization "Global Health Observatory Data Repository: Uganda, Country statistics"
Huge kudos to you for caring, but please PLEASE think before you
donate. Put the money where it's needed, not where it's going to be used
to produce the slickest videos and promo materials.
And allow me to add just a couple soapbox points, for my own therapy:
- In two years in Uganda I never heard a single positive comment about
Invisible Children, neither from (expatriate nor Ugandan) aid workers
nor Ugandans who stood to benefit. I won't go into the details of the
- Invisible Children's annual report spending
numbers don't add up. I honestly have no damn idea how they could
possibly be spending as much money on in-country programs but producing
so little with it.
- Finally, good on Invisible Children for raising
awareness about this. Seriously. But why would you take the money
raised and try to fix things yourself, rather than passing the funds
along to organizations with a proven track-record of
conflict-alleviation and post-conflict rebuilding? Gulu - where IC's
headquarters are in Uganda - is so oversaturated with post-conflict
oriented organizations that it's actually fairly comical. Coordination
would result in that money doing much, much more good, and doing that
good in a better way.