Stop Kony Responsibly – My Kony Stance

After watching the KONY 2012 video, I was so inspired to do something good, and make a difference for those suffering in Africa under the ruthless force of Joesph Kony.

Today, after browsing through some of the articles written in response to the Invisible Children Group’s KONY 2012 video, I realise that there are two sides to every story. There are arguments that the KONY 2012 videomakers are using the video for commercial benefits or that there may be some questionable intentions behind the movement. There have been statements saying that the conflict has subsided somewhat in recent times and that any rash actions now may result in a swift return of the violence.

For many of us, who were so motivated to jump headfirst into the KONY 2012 movement, and who fervently believed what the video said, these counter-arguments can come as a slap in the face. I was left confused, and unsure of which side I should believe.

BUT, what I realise now is that the worst possible thing that could happen as a result of my confusion would be a lack of action. If the KONY 2012 movement is questionable it doesn’t mean that the Joseph Kony issue isn’t as important as they made it seem. In fact, it just means that we should focus on the issue at hand, and not the medium through which we found out about it.

These are child soldiers, meaning that any action taken against Kony will also affect the very people we are trying to save. Action must be taken carefully, and in the meantime, I will bring about Kony awareness; rather than KONY 2012 awareness.

I’m using the following picture to serve as my way of spreading awareness. It has nothing to do with the KONY 2012 group, but has everything to do with bringing justice to those who are suffering at the hands of this evil man.





A Little Perspective is Always Important

written by Grant Oyston

We got trouble.

For those asking what you can do to help, please link to wherever you see KONY 2012 posts. And tweet a link to this page to famous people on Twitter who are talking about KONY 2012!

I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign.

KONY 2012 is the product of a group called Invisible Children, a controversial activist group and not-for-profit. They’ve released 11 films, most with an accompanying bracelet colour (KONY 2012 is fittingly red), all of which focus on Joseph Kony. When we buy merch from them, when we link to their video, when we put up posters linking to their website, we support the organization. I don’t think that’s a good thing, and I’m notalone.

Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they haven’t had their finances externally audited. But it goes way deeper than that.

The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them,arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.

Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness and filmmaking. Which can be great, except that Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children (among others) “manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.” He’s certainly evil, but exaggeration and manipulation to capture the public eye is unproductive, unprofessional and dishonest.

As Chris Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, writes on the topic of IC’s programming, “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.”

Still, Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.

Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away. If people know this and still support Invisible Children because they feel it’s the best solution based on their knowledge and research, I have no issue with that. But I don’t think most people are in that position, and that’s a problem.

Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s somethingSomething isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.

If you want to write to your Member of Parliament or your Senator or the President or the Prime Minister, by all means, go ahead. If you want to post about Joseph Kony’s crimes on Facebook, go ahead. But let’s keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.

~ Grant Oyston,

Kony 2012…Please watch this, for you. You won’t regret it.

When it comes to helping others or making a difference, I usually think to myself:

“I’ll definitely be really involved later in life” or

“I want to help those who are most in need, not just any random cause” or

“When I’m in a better position, I’ll do it”

But after watching this video I realise that time is passing by and people are suffering, waiting for me to make the right choice for them. I won’t make them wait any longer, the time to act is now.

Wherever there is suffering, there is the opportunity to make a difference.