Purim Posting: Joseph Kony, Scandal and Uganda

So, I wrote this post full of idealism and high-minded optimisim, and then I flagged. I was sitting here in my Purim finery, pretty much accepting that I had thrown my blog ambitions down the drain, when all of a sudden, I stumbled upon a Foreign Policy article about the Joseph Koney controversy. Kaboom. Insert righteous indignation, followed by guilt at my own presumptousness. I will try to sum up the situation as I understand it, and provide you, my lovely reader, with some links, so you can make up your own mind:

Joseph Kony is crony: He is the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, famous for its mass murder and use of child soldiiers. The LRA was very active in Uganda, but has since spread to neighboring countries. Recent efforts to fight the LRA, while rehabilitating members who choose to leave the LRA, have been moderately succesful, but that success in danger of being reversed if outside aid is not provided for military and intelligence purposes, as well as diplomatically, and to help with the LRA rehabilitation effort.

For more, please read this article (for full disclosure, I am the article’s author, but it has links to other articles should you doubt my objectivity): http://shayna-abramson.suite101.com/the-lords-resistance-army-and-us-policy-problems-and-solutions-a402477

I guess with that link I just made my blog un-anonymous. Invisible Children is a non-profit. This is their mission, according to their website:


Invisible Children’s mission is to stop LRA violence and support the war-affected communities in East and Central Africa. These are the three ways we achieve this mission; each is essential:

  1. 1) 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.
  2. 2) Channel energy from viewers of IC films into large-scale advocacy campaigns to stop the LRA and protect civilians.
  3. 3) Operate programs on the ground in LRA-affected areas that provide protection, rehabilitation and development assistance.

As you will see, we spend roughly one third of our money on each of these three goals. This three-prong approach is what makes Invisible Children unique. Some organizations focus exclusively on documenting human rights abuses, some focus exclusively on international advocacy or awareness, and some focus exclusively on on-the-ground development. We do all three. At the same time. This comprehensive model is intentional and has proven to be very effective.

We are committed, and always have been, to be 100% financially transparent and to communicate in plain language the mission of the organization so that everyone can make an informed decision about whether they want to support our strategy.

For more, please visit http://s3.amazonaws.com/www.invisiblechildren.com/critiques.html

Anyhow, this organization made a 30-minute youtube video entitled Kony 2012 and wrote a letter to president Obama as part of their campaign, to get the US to act regarding the situation in Uganda.

Enter the criticisms:

1. The campaign aims to make Kony famous so that people will encourage the US to act. But making Kony famous could work in his advantage – essentially, it might have the opposite effect, and gain him more followerd.

2. The picture of Uganda painted by the film is one of Uganda five years ago, not of Uganda now, despite the films’ claims to the contrary. This misleads the public, as well as organizations that want to help Uganda, which now needs help rebuilding (ie economic stimulus of agriculture and small business, and further LRA rehabillitation, as well as publich health and education problems) not troops.

3. The film is militaristic, advocating the sending of troops (admittedly, many NGOs in the region are advocating some military support, though mostly in an instructional and intelligence capacity – for more, see “Ensuring Success: Four Steps Beyond US Troops to End The War with the LRA”, Enough,  by Sasha Lezhnev, published on February 2, 2012.

4. Afraid of the film’s potential success, Kony might grow afraid that the US will in fact intervene militarly, and react by pre-emptively increasing military strikes and recruting more child soldiers. (I admit I find it far-fetched that Kony would grow so afraid of one film’s potential success that he’d go on the offensive solely as a reaction to that, but do think that the situation on the ground in Uganda is such that Kony has reason to be threatened, and threatened men do desperate things. Yet to not act becaue he might feel threatened, seems ridiculous to me. Hitler might have heightened the pace at his genocidal death camps as he grew afraid of losing the war, but that does not mean World War Two was unwise – on the contray, how many more people would have died if the mass-murderer remained un-opposed. That being said, obviously one can’t really compare the LRA and the Holocaust.)
For more on reasons to oppose the film, see here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/uganda/9131469/Joseph-Kony-2012-growing-outrage-in-Uganda-over-film.html
Oh, did I mention that Invisible Children has also come under attack for what some see as suspicious finances?
Anyhow, for more on the topic, please see here: http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/03/08/invisible_children_responds_to_critics
I don’t know how unbiased Foreign Policy is, but at least it’s reputable, and like all major publications, loves linking you to other articles it has published on the same topic.
If you would like do something to help, I know of these two charities, one of which (the IRC) was praised by Nicholas Kristof, however, I can not take personal responsibility for the charities or their actions.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Purim!

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