Feature photo courtesy of Veronica Egger
It has been almost a year since the organization Invisible Children launched the Kony 2012 campaign. The goal of the campaign was to make African rebel leader Joseph Kony famous (or perhaps infamous is the better word), and to have him captured and brought to justice by the end of the year.
We are almost two months into 2013. Kony and some 200 members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), Kony’s rebel group, are still on the run. Invisible Children has been the subject of intense critique. Does that mean the Kony 2012 campaign was completely unsuccessful?
I say no, for three reasons:
1) Kony is much more well-known now than he was before the campaign.
2) Invisible Children has withstood all the critiques that have been raised against it.
3) Invisible Children has made progress towards their goal since the Kony 2012 campaign.
The Kony 2012 video was aired on YouTube in March of last year, garnering almost 100 million views – much more than the anticipated 500,000.
The video provided a very brief history of the long and complicated conflict that Kony’s rebel group has perpetuated. Kony and his top commanders have been wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity for several years.
The video culminated in a call to action, asking viewers to come together on April 20thof last year to plaster their cities in red posters bearing the words “Kony 2012.”
goal was not to glorify Kony, but to make people aware of the atrocities he’d committed so that leaders like him would be less likely to gain so much power in the future.
Not that many people showed up.
But, Invisible Children had underestimated the power of social media. They had intended to spread the word about Kony using a more old-fashioned, hands-on method. But by the time they were ready to use that method, the job had already been done by Facebook shares and likes. Kony was all over the internet.
This is not to say that social media is better than hands-on methods when it comes to activism; clicking entails a lot less responsibility than chalking every sidewalk in your town. (That said, the fizzling out of Kony 2012 might be more of a reflection on our generation than on Invisible Children itself, but that’s another story).
So, Kony made famous: check. What about the criticisms?
After the video aired, questions were raised about virtually every aspect of Invisible Children, from its finances to whether it is religiously affiliated to its position on homosexuality.
Invisible Children did not shrink beneath the criticisms. Rather, it rose to the challenge.
The nonprofit published an entire page of responses to nearly every critique, including its financial statements from the past five years. This page is still available on their website.
As for the progress, I have seen it firsthand.
I have collaborated with Invisible Children staff and volunteers for three years. In the process I’ve also met several Ugandans who claimed they directly benefited from Invisible Children’s programs.
But in November of 2012, I went on a road trip to Washington, D.C. and saw many of the goals of this organization that I support begin to come to fruition.
The event I and several of my friends attended was called Move: DC. Myself and several thousand other Invisible Children supporters gathered in the capital to first observe a global summit, and then to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to rally at the Washington Monument.
The global summit was a panel of leaders who traveled to D.C. to speak that day about how they could put forth a collective effort to finally end LRA violence, help rehabilitate victims and prevent similar incidences in the future.
The leaders included representatives from the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union, Uganda, the International Criminal Court, Central African Republic, South Sudan and the United States.
The reason for the march itself was to remind both old and new leaders in the capital to continue their support of an act that provides U.S. aid in the struggle to stop the LRA for good.
I will write more in-depth on Move: DC and what I learned there at a later time, but for now, suffice it to say that it completely reinvigorated my passion for justice and for this organization.
Is a campaign like Kony 2012 unsuccessful if it does not reach its precise goals? Or is it successful if it gets closer to them? In this case, I’d argue in favor of the latter.
I do not believe Invisible Children’s mantra “Stop at Nothing” is an arbitrary phrase. From all I know of the organization, they will stick it out until the end.