This link contains a youtube in which Jason Russell, cofounder of Invisible Children, speaks of the group’s video as a ‘Trojan Horse to get into the schools’. Russell doesn’t go into it here, but he mentions that some kind of an unsatisfactory experience on an evangelistic mission in Uganda led him to wanting to do something and get people involved in the situation there. ‘We are able to be the Trojan Horse in a sense, going into a secular realm and saying, guess what life is about— orphans, and it’s about the widow. It’s about the oppressed. That’s God’s heart. And to sit in a public high school and tell them about that has been life-changing. Because they get so excited. And it’s not driven by guilt, it’s driven be an adventure and the adventure is God’s.’
I don’t have a huge problem with that— as far as it goes; if someone goes to Africa on an evangelistic mission and then comes to realize that it’s not about making converts to their religion but about serving the widow, the orphan, and the fatherless— that can’t be all bad. I went there pretty clear about that already, but certainly my work in Uganda confirmed my sense that religion without justice is worthless. And hence the African Education Fund (click the link at the right).
But I am both dismayed and not surprised to find confirmation of something I suspected from the very beginning about Invisible Children— that the group has deep ties, apparently, to some very nasty people: ‘…intimately linked to The Family, the secretive and powerful American fundamentalist group widely considered responsible for Uganda’s draconian “Kill the Gays” bill’, and also notoriously involved in the Bush Whitehouse. Here’s an NPR piece on The Family.
My feeling is that Russell and his group want to do good, and as far as that goes, it’s hard not to support them— but they do seem at least naive about being played. For me, too many pieces fit together too well in ways I don’t like at all: war slowly ramping up in South Sudan, another oil-rich area, oil in Uganda, all kinds of minerals in eastern Congo and southwestern Ethiopia, the Kony campaign, the US’s announcement of $50 billion in fighter jets for its vicious client, Uganda’s president-for-life Y.K. Museveni. The Invisible Children group has been very effective in garnering enormous worldwide sympathy for a country whose internal politics and geopolitical position are completely obscure(d).
The Guardian reported that ‘The African Union has announced that it will form a 5,000-strong brigade to hunt down Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), believed to be hiding in the jungles of central Africa.’ And the numbers get bigger and bigger: Kony ‘is believed to have recruited between 60,000 and 100,000 child soldiers and displaced around 2 million people.’ Actually, Kony didn’t displace. It was Museveni who forced 2 million Acholi, who had opposed his takeover of Uganda, into wretched camps and destitution which Kony could raid freely.
I see forces getting into position. Kony is a evil, insane psychopath who shold be brought to justice, although his original goal of asserting the rights of the Acholi people does have some support. He’s not the guy to bring it about, of course, but for 25 years he’s been useful, and that’s why he’s been kept around. He’s also expendable, of course, and his stale date may actually have arrived, though I’ll be a little surprised if the new brigade actually captures him. They’re more likely to capture a good deal of military aid from the West. So he has been, and remains, very useful. Invisible Children, with its brash idealism and well-critiqued paternalism has also been useful in getting people behind the buildup.
By the way, the new anti-Kony brigade ‘will be based in South Sudan’.
Uganda's 'invisible children' are no longer so invisible.
This article on the Kony2012 campaign is worth reading. It’s good news if the campaign results in renewed resolve to catch the bastard. I hope they do!
But meanwhile, please don’t forget the St Nicholas African Education Fund (see the Paypal or ChipIn link at the right), especially if, as I do, you have a problem with Invisible Children spending only 32% of funds raised on any Uganda children, visible or not. As I’ve mentioned, we send 100% directly to our kids, minus only the bank fees and about $75/month for our hard-working manager in Uganda.
Update: Also have a look at “Guest Post: I’ve met Joseph Kony and Kony 2012 isn’t that bad” by Norbert Mao, a Uganda politico. As he points out, “The sky is overcast with an explosive mix of dubious oil deals, land grabs, arms proliferation, neglected ex-combatants, and a volatile neighborhood full of regimes determined to fish in troubled waters. What we have is a tentative peace.”
This article in Guernica Magazine is another very good discussion of the Invisible Children organization and its Kony2012 campaign.
You might also read, if you haven’t seen it, today’s news, Uganda screenings of Kony film halted after protests. That’d be because “Joseph Kony No Longer [seen as] a Threat“.
I’m sorta wondering whether IC is starting to regret their rather unconsidered enthusiasm.
The real invisible children are Uganda’s high school kids. There just isn’t much support available for them. Lots o’ people go all mushy over grade school kids— and not unreasonably so— but what about when they actually get old enough to where they might soon begin working for a living, if they just had education and training?
Well, click the paypal link to the right! Kony may be pretty much out of the picture by now, but these kids are very real, and they need your help right now!
Stop this man.
here’s what i posted, with one or two later edits, after sharing that link on facebook:
YES YES YES!! SAY IT BROTHER!!
I was living in Uganda in 2003, when Kony made his LAST major incursion there– he came from the north and got as far as Soroti, but it turned out it was just a raid, and after killing and burning for a few days, his forces melted back into the north, over the border of Sudan, then northeast Congo, now the Central Afr. Rep., and more or less hasn’t been heard of since. THAT WAS 9 YEARS AGO!! Yes, he made a couple of brief raids after that in Uganda and, if memory serves, he stirred up some trouble in Congo around Christmas of 2010, but pretty much hasn’t been heard of, otherwise.
And by ALL accounts, his present forces are estimated at a few hundred at most. He apparently gets his weapons from China, but through what channels I don’t know. Those questions never have clear answers, especially when ‘enemies’ often serve the same masters.
I was in Uganda again from 2005 through 2007, and the kids who were still sleeping in churches and schools in Gulu in early 2005 (only half as many as 2002) were all back in the villages by the end of 2007.
I have remained continuously in touch with many people all over Uganda since then, and I was in Gulu again last year (2011), drinking beer outdoors even until late at night, and even sleeping in grass huts with some of those kids and their wonderful parents in a perfectly peaceful village outside of town. Kony is basically just a bad memory at this point. NO, he’s not dead and he needs to be brought to justice. But he is not an active presence there.
But understand this: Uganda’s President Museveni himself is NOT innocent of wrongdoing in the whole Kony affair from the git-go— he USED Kony to punish the Acholi people because they resist him, and Kony remains a potentially useful destabilizing force that he and the other corrupt dictators of Central/East Africa can call upon at will. One of Museveni’s highest advisors spent years with Kony (sorry, i don’t know the status right now). Do you think he was just enjoying a camping trip?
And the UPDF, by all accounts, is *just* as brutal and corrupt as Kony. Especially since they’re not well paid, and they’re armed, they loot and rape with impunity. So is supporting them such a great idea? They COULD have taken Kony down any number of times, had they been determined. But they don’t like fighting people with with weapons. Better just to live off the locals.
So ALWAYS remember this: there’s OIL in Uganda now, and MINERALS all over the place in that part of Africa, and what has been called “World War III” is happening RIGHT NOW in neighboring eastern Congo. Rwanda is up to its ears in murder. Congolese gold is a major export of Uganda. The uranium that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki came from Congo. Google “conflict minerals” and “coltan”— and you’ll find that estimates of those killed over the past decade in neighboring Congo run as high as ten MILLION so far; one in four women gang-raped, even *men* gang-raped— but all this merits not a whisper in our newspapers because THOSE MINERALS ARE IN YOUR CELL PHONE and every other cellphone in the world— got the picture yet? So what is Kony? Brutal, insane, murderous— and useful.
When all the killing was going on— nothing, not a single tear from the good ol’ USA. But NOW, in a great, magnanimous gesture of *humanitarian concern*, the US has sent 100 military ‘advisors’ to Uganda. Of course, no Kony-related ‘results’ have been reported so far— not least because they’re not even looking for Kony— at all!
But meanwhile the Uganda police are sitting in plenty of shiny new heavy military equipment at all major intersections now, as the people plunge further and further into desperation.
While i was there last summer, the US made a 10-year, $75 billion commitment to providing *fighter jets* to Uganda for “security”. Um, excuse me? *Fighter* jets??— for *Uganda*??? That’s like fighter jets for *Oregon*! (Well, and what it really means is, the criminals who run the US just donated $75B of our tax money to Lockheed, which will give a certain percentage of it to Museveni and his brother the top general; Museveni, who has proven himself ready to do US tricks in any country he can fly to, will spin some more tricks in Somalia, and feel more confident about taking over the new East African Union, that is, president of about 1/6 of the whole continent.
At first I thought this “Invisible Children” group had to be either *sinfully* naive, criminally corrupt, or (what is the same) simply a CIA front aiming to stir up support for a future destabilization program. Or patsies in a game larger than they knew. After further investigation, I wouldn’t say that now— perhaps they’ll do some good. But I just don’t see 100 US advisors in Uganda doing much to arrest Kony in the Central African Republic, nor Museveni’s government interested in the topic at the moment, so I still really wonder what this movement is actually accomplishing.
I feel sooooo bad and sorry for the beautiful, wonderful, innocent people of Uganda, who have done NOTHING to deserve the US’s government’s “humanitarian concern”.
If you want to support kids in Uganda, find the paypal link in the right-hand column of this page— and do some REAL good. I guarantee that EVERYTHING you contribute will go DIRECTLY to helping Uganda high school kids graduate. You know— education… jobs… future…. PEACE…!
That’s what we need. “Invisible Children”? As far as I can tell, they’re “Invisible”, indeed— because *they’re not there!*
Forgive if I’m wrong, and if I see some real action from IC, i’ll recant. And I do hope my mentioning the Education Fund which i direct isn’t self-serving; certainly I don’t mean it so. There are numerous ways to send aid to Uganda, even to Northern Uganda; my program happens to be the one I know best, that’s all— and, well, it is *direct* in a way that no others are, since i personally deal with the kids and their schools themselves. In fact i’m hoping i can find a sponsor for a new Acholi kid right now— but we desperately need better funding for the whole program. That is to say, I’m not criticizing Invisible Children just to raise money for “my” program. You’ll find lots of critical response on the internet if you look around a bit.
Let’s indeed *bring Kony to justice*— and rescue however many kids he still has in his army! But if you’ve been in Africa, you will know how many layers of shifting veils there are; and how, when people (including the US above all) say they’re doing one thing, it’s usually *not* what they’re doing.
So before you send any money, demand more transparency, demand clarity, and keep an eye on the *results*!