Like millions of people around the world yesterday I was gripped by the powerful and compelling video STOP KONY 2012. It is posted here below:
It’s 30 minutes long and it is worth taking the time to watch.I have shown it to everyone I can – including my children. I retweeted the link to my friends on twitter.
1. Powerful film making
– Jason Russel has put together a master piece. Through compelling story telling he makes some undeniably powerful claims about the value of evert life, the injustice of Child soldiers, the corruption of the Ugandan situation with Joseph Kony and his cronies. To make a viral video that is not 2 mins long, not 5 mins long but 30 minutes long is unheard of. The quality of the film making is so high – it as compelling a short film as I have seen. It is inspirational, educational, media literate, beautiful and breathtakingly sad.
2. Inspirational vision
– there is a very clear call to action. Using our social media opportunities we can call others into this fight against the tragedies of child soldiers. We can make use of the opportunity of the US election to stop fighting petty personality politics but to do some real good to fight injustice. Its a fantastic big hearted vision and I love the vision of it.
– the call is to get involved with a clear movement for change – to get stuck in and become part of something global and significant – definitely something I want to sign up for. To use your voice and your power to help others – clearly a right challenge to all of us.
4. Media Savy
– by targeting 20 media influencers – Rhianna, Bono, Mark Zuckerberg the INVISIBLE CHILDREN group behind the video have been incredibly clever. Rhianna and Bono don’t seem to have a lot of choice but to get on board. They wouldn’t want to be seen as being against a campaign that wants to free child solders would they.
As a Christian I am moved by the passion and commitment to try and do something about the poor and vulnerable. I want to support and join in with the fight for these invisible children. Caring for the needy, defending the rights of the vulnerable is a core part of what it means to be a Christian.
With that said sometimes its important to to ask questions. Not just to go with the media flow or the viral current. After spending a short time in Kenya speaking with Kenyan pastors about the Aid and development industry I have come to believe that people with good intentions can sometimes do harm as well as good.
I am not as well versed in Ugandan politics as I ought to be. But reading around the blogosphere questions have been raised around working the Invisible Children’s willingness to work with the Ugandan army who are pretty notorious for the way they operate. For example you may have read the shocking stories about the rape of DRC men in the guardian last year. Indeed the following blog have raised similar concerns:Liferemixed – reflections on KONY. It seems the group is for direct military intervention and with dubious partners.
“Suggesting that the answer is more military action is just wrong,” said Javie Ssozi, an influential Ugandan blogger.
Another problem is that there are very few Ugandan voices in the film. We hear the heart rending story of one escaped child soldier. But very few Ugandan leaders backing the campaign or agreeing with the analysis of the problem. This could appear to be white westerners trying to solve Africa’s problems. Some have criticised the analysis of the problems made in the video. STOP PRESS – thanks to a friend I have this link from the UK’s Telegraph newspaper where prominent Ugandans are very critical about the campaign:
Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist specialising in peace and conflict reporting, said: “This paints a picture of Uganda six or seven years ago, that is totally not how it is today. It’s highly irresponsible”.
It struck me that if this is all about the campaign, why didn’t the invisible children just give away free posters to download rather than have me pay for them to send me a pack. Comments have been made about the financial transparency of the organisation:
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 for an issue which arguably needs action and aid, not awareness, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they lack an external audit committee.
Thanks to helpful comments I want to link to Invisible Children’s reposnse to questions about their financials. Here’s the breakdown they provide.
Friends tell me that this is not outrageous for a non profit. But it does seem disappointing that so little of money raised goes to on the ground projects just 37%.
So what should you do?
1. Dig Deeper – lets take a closer look at the campaign and what funding it would actually mean. (watch this space as I try and find out more).
2. Stay Connected – just because there are questions and things are more complicated than they seem – don’t lose heart and duck out. Lets engage with the Invisible Children movement as there is so much common ground so much to commend in what they are doing – but lets not be afraid to ask the awkward questions.
3. Make a difference – we need to find effective ways to help the poor and needy and to end moral horrors such as the use of child soldiers, people trafficking etc. but it might take a little bit more work than a RT.