Invisible Children are the wrong NGO to support in the fight against Joseph Kony

I woke up this morning to find my Facebook and Twitter feeds full of links to a video which was made by a charitable NGO called Invisible Children (IC). This video was produced to increase awareness of the war crimes committed by Joseph Kony.  As most people will now know, Joseph Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) a guerrilla group which were once based in Uganda but who have now moved on to a number of different countries in Central Africa.

The video outlines the fact that Kony and the LRA have committed countless war crimes and crimes against humanity including, murder, rape as a weapon of war, torture and the use of child soldiers in combat.  The main aim of the video is to increase awareness of Joseph Kony and the LRA and to lobby the US government into military action against the LRA.

When I first saw the video I, like thousands of others, jumped on the bandwagon and thought the campaign was the best thing since sliced bread.  However, after a while, my opinion started to change slightly.

Now while I agree that Kony is evil and needs to be stopped and I also believe that activism about this issue is a positive step in an effort to help the situation, I do not think Invisible Children are the right charity to support.

Admittedly I am not an expert on Central Africa or on how large charity organisations work but after doing a little research on the matter I saw some worrying statistics and figures.

In 2011 IC spent $8,676,614 but only 32 % of this went to Africa, most of the rest of it went on staff salaries, hotels, film production and other expenses.  32% is a statistic which will make many people think twice about donating to them. If you were to donate £1 today, just 32 pence would go to Africa, or more specifically the Ugandan government (but more on that later).

In the past, Invisible Children refused to be externally audited, examined and evaluated as a charity organisation.  Why would a charity organisation refuse to be audited and not let anyone examine them properly? A refusal of this kind causes a lack of reliability and trust in the charity which in turn would cause a lack of potential support for the charity. In September 2011, Invisible Children were independently audited by Considine Considine, an accountancy firm based in California. A link to their report can be found at the bottom of this article.

One reason for the alarmingly small percentage of 32% is the highly inflated salaries the CEO and co-founders of IC have decided to award themselves.  Ben Keesey, the CEO of IC, has an annual salary of $88,241 and the two other co-founders are also paid in excess of $80,000. In total the top 3 staff at Invisible children are paid annually $262, 287 which is a very large amount for such a small organisation.  In other words it’s around 3% of their annual expenditure.  These figures do not include the expenses that these people have claimed for, such as flights and hotel rooms.

32% of money spent by IC in 2010 was spent on direct services.  But what does that actually mean? Was that money spent on food, blankets, medical supplies, clean water and education? Well, not exactly.

The IC are in favour of military intervention which means as well as lobbying the US government to go in and ‘save the day’, they are also funding the Ugandan government’s military forces, or the ‘good guys’ as they would like us to believe.  The Ugandan Army have also been accused of many of the same crimes that Kony has, that’s where your money is going if you have contributed to IC. Also, here is a photo of the founders posing with automatic weapons and RPGs and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army; why would the founders of a charity organisation be associated with this army, who have also been accused of a number of war crimes?

IC are giving money to the Ugandan army to fight Kony and the LRA, but by the IC’s own admission, the LRA and Kony have not been active in Uganda since 2006, so why are they still sending money to Uganda in attempt to capture and prosecute Kony?

Kony and the LRA have since moved to the Congo and other central African countries.

If the IC were sending money to help repair the country and help the victims of the past 20 years, sending money to the Ugandan government would make sense; but as it says in their video, they are spending money in an attempt to capture or kill Kony.  Sending money to a country where the LRA are not active in a bid to capture their leader does seem a bit strange.

Joseph Kony and the LRA have been accused of a large number of war crimes and crimes against humanity and they do need to stand trial and be brought to justice.

Activism and improving awareness is also essential. Millions of people have learnt about Joseph Kony today and that can only be a good thing. I agree with Invisible Children’s motives but their methods and ideology seem to be highly flawed. Their methods and money management are nothing short of reckless, and do we really want to send more western troops into Uganda? Will it help or will it cause even more bloodshed?

There are hundreds of other charities which are focussed on Africa and some which are also focused on helping in the fight against the LRA.  If you want to use some of your hard earned cash to help the thousands of people whose lives have been damaged by the LRA, have a look at the other charities. You may find a charity that is more suitable and spend its money more wisely.

Below is a link to an independent auditor report conducted by Considine Considine in September 2011:
http://c2052482.r82.cf0.rackcdn.com/images/737/original/FY11-Audited%20Financial%20Statements.pdf?1320205055

Posted on March 7, 2012, in Foreign Affairs, General and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Suggest when you also use rhetoric laced with figures you also list your sources – otherwise your opinion remains only bluster.

  2. The facts in this article are entirely accurate and based on Invisible Children’s latest financial report available at http://c2052482.r82.cf0.rackcdn.com/images/737/original/FY11-Audited%20Financial%20Statements.pdf?1320205055

    • $2,776,516.48… the “alarmingly small percentage” that IC has givem directly to Africa. I’m willing to bet that is $2,776,615.48 more than any of us (including the author of this article) have guven to Africa. And as long as we’re judging people and their actions, what are the qualifications of this author? It seems that they are even sadly out of tune with tje realities of CEO salaries, costs and expenses associated with a project of thos scale. A quick google search will show that the average salary of a Make-A-Wish CEO (state chapter) is at least $135,000. Does that mean that organization should be shunned and stop granting wishes to terminally ill children? The CEO for Doctors Without Borders makes over $200,000… should that organization stop providing free medical care to less fortunate HUMAN BEINGS in other countries? Give me a break. The prior 2 posts are absolutely right. At the end of the day, someone trying to do something positive is better than nothing at all. “ALL THAT IS NECESSARY FOR THE TRIUMPH OF EVIL IS THAT GOOD MEN DO NOTHING.” E. Burke…

      • “I’m willing to bet that is $2,776,615.48 more than any of us (including the author of this article) have guven to Africa. ”

        ridiculous ad hominem

  3. Thank you for your suggestion, and thank you Richard for providing a source for the facts and figures.

  4. I will post, word for word, how a band called BASSNECTAR responded to stuff like this:

    “i just have to say, i don’t think “Invisible Children” is a terrible organization, and I am sure there are things they can do better. If you think nonprofit organizations spend all their money directly on their cause then you are simply ignorant. There are important campaign costs, salaries for amazing staff, project costs, and enormous expenses. http://vimeo.com/37119711 None of the “critiques” offered here [http://visiblechildren.tumblr.com/] should actually deter anyone who actually cares about stepping up and making a difference. You think this is easy? You think it is simple to organize a united global campaign against terrorist/guerilla human or army? You think the world is black & white? It’s not. If you are going to undertake something like this, it is going to be SUPER COMPLEX. You are missing the point if you see an amazing attempt to make positive change, and you only look at the negative aspects of it. Don’t be surprised when you hear that your heroes are just human. They fuck up. I’m sure every great role model has made plenty of mistakes but does that invalidate their work? No. THIS IS AN IMPORTANT POINT: There are negative sides to every issue. Before i posted this, i *knew* the post would be littered with people chiming in with some “dastardly” negative about the makers of the video, or trying to find some conspiracy. The fact is there are negatives with EVERYTHING. Every cool organization has some kind of negatives. No person or orgnization can put together a campaign this large, this global, this attractive, this expensive, and this good, without leaving behind a path of negatives and without making compromises. SO WHAT. If you are waiting for a Perfect Ideal, then you are going to wait forever. There are plenty of Bad People doing Bad Things. So when Good People try and do Good Things, do not fuck with their momentum by trying to find a negative. I’m not saying don’t question things (Question Everything). But know when to be realistic. KONY 2012 is an amazing idea, a MASSIVE undertaking, and an uphill battle. Don’t try and arrogantly show the world how smart you are by exposing something genuinely good as being invalid. It is not invalid. This movie shows an important cause (a complicated one) and attempts to address it directly. Just let that happen. If you find yourself with free time on your hands, don’t litter my facebook with bad facts about good people. EVERY GOOD PERSON HAS BAD FACTS ABOUT THEM. That is life. There are positives and negatives. Every hero or icon or role model has also done bad things or said dumb things, because nobody is perfect. This isn’t news. You arent being insightful by telling me that “invisible children” isn’t a perfect organization, or that the concept of intervening in Africa is a complex one. THAT IS REALLY OBVIOUS :) Stop trying to find the dark side in everything, because sometimes it is important to share the light.”

  5. This jackass thinks it’s a problem that only 32% of the funds go to Africa; the rest to film production and salaries. First of all, 32% is a buttload of money. Secondly, the whole point is activism through publicity. To get publicity, you have to pay people and production costs. Thirdly, he seems to think that it’s outrageous that the CEO pays less than himself $90,000 a year. Really, Snivelly? Since when is $90,000 a year a grotesque amount of money?

  6. You are an unkind idiot to post this. In true form of the privilidged elite, you use your (apparent) intellect to completely shit on an organization who’s only goal is to save lives. And btw, 80k for a CEO is nothing…should they be destitute and hungry just because they’re doing good. What a fuckin’ jerk man! Use your intellect for good……for a change.

  7. Why should we donate money to other countries when we have starving, neglected, abused children in our own country America…when do u see other countries donating money for our children who badly need it..I think Never!!

  8. These are good facts and I totally agree that kony is a monster and should be stopped, but not at the expense of good american soldiers…it is not our fight and we should remain out of these foriegn affairs, we have enough criminal activity within our boarders that we need to fix first. Besides that invisible children acomplishes little and only spreads propaganda, hardly doing any of the dirty work needed to solve the problem. They are nothing more then money wasting propagandist and hippocrites

  9. Such criticisms should always be coupled with alternatives. If you are going to put forth an argument for snuffing out generosity, at least do us the good service of offering a better organization to which we might want to consider contributing. Sounds to me like another excuse for holding tight to the money that many of us acquired the privilege to obtain by being born in the right country.

  10. It makes me sick to think that this has been going on so long and that our governmenthas done notihng to help. It took too long for troops to be sent. Its amazing howeveryone is coming together to make a difference. I will do anything and everything it takesto help the cause. I want to make a difference. I live in a very small town that isbarely getting news of It now. Everyone that asks us what kony 2012 is aboutI pull aside and explain. I work at walmart and I know almost all of my co’workers will buyan action kit.But I need information. I need a website or something were we can all orderthem. Id like it if anyone could write back on this thing but an address or websiteIs all I need to get people involved for the invisible children <3Urs truely,Jennie

  1. Pingback: Kony 2012: A Scam Wrapped in a Good Cause | The Handle

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