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:
Posted on March 7, 2012, in Foreign Affairs, General and tagged 32%, charity, invisible children, kony, Lords Resistance Army, LRA, NGO, peter dunne, uganda, wrong. Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.