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Sunday, 11 March 2012

Separating fact from fiction: Kony 2012

Many of you will have now heard about a charitable organisation called Invisible Children and a campaign they have began called Kony 2012.

If that is the case, then it is also a possibility that you have heard that both Invisible Children and their campaign has been met with a significant amount of criticism.

However, the charity have responded to these critiques, and both the criticisms and the charities' response should  be taken into consideration before either writing the charity and their campaign off entirely, or before donating to Invisible Children, especially their response regarding this picture:

JASON RUSSELL: Let me start by saying that that photo was a bad idea. We were young and we got caught up in the moment. It was never meant to reflect on the organization. The photo of Bobby, Laren and I with the guns was taken in an LRA camp in DRC during the 2008 Juba Peace Talks. We were there to see Joseph Kony come to the table to sign the Final Peace Agreement. The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) was surrounding our camp for protection since Sudan was mediating the peace talks. We wanted to talk to them and film them and get their perspective. And because Bobby, Laren and I are friends and had been doing this for 5 years, we thought it would be funny to bring back to our friends and family a joke photo. You know, "Haha - they have bazookas in their hands but they're actually fighting for peace." The ironic thing about this photo is that I HATE guns. I always have. Back in 2008 I wanted this war to end, like we all did, peacefully, through peace talks. But Kony was not interested in that; he kept killing. And we still don't want war. We don't want him killed and we don't want bombs dropped. We want him alive and captured and brought to justice
 African voices have not responded well to the campaign, criticising the charity for trying to indulge their "white savior complex" and for over-simplifying a highly complex situation and for suggesting that the warlord Kony still resides in Uganda, when he is now thought to be hiding in Congo. 

Although it has to be said, white, privileged individuals do feel a certain obligation to act as 'savior' to the masses, I don't see why this should be seen as a bad thing. One organisation educated 70 million more people about Kony and the LRA in the space of five days than it an entire continent did in over two decades. The 'white' (as many writers are stereotyping those who respond to the Kony 2012 video as, regardless of nationality or race) may be guilty of naively attempting to save the world, but we wouldn't need to do this if the world attempted to save itself. 

Sure, Invisible Children's campaigns may seem a little 'out there' (attempting to make a ruthless war criminal famous through the use of celebrity culture and social media is certainly unheard of) but you have got to respect them for showing generations of people what can be achieved with a dream, a video camera and a well organised internet campaign.

If you don't agree with Invisible Children, please, help raise awareness of Kony regardless. I'm not asking you to donate to a charity you do not believe in, but Kony has done unspeakable things and he must be brought to justice.

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