Before you start reading this, please look at your clock and make a note of the time.
I’m sat here watching Sport Relief 2012 in the comfort of my lovely warm flat, having a glass of coke with ice, sat beside my fiancé whilst he writes some information down from his laptop, and all I can think about is how lucky I am. The videos have been flashing on-screen about children across the world and issues that they have and the country is phoning in and donating their money – the first total of the evening is in and it starts off at a hefty £15.4 million. I’m always really supportive of Sport Relief, Comic Relief and Children in Need but not only because they help causes that I’ve been a part of and that I’ve helped to fund as well like Young Carers, but because of all the work that they do in Africa as well. Watching this and looking at the stories in Africa undoubtedly reminded me of the Kony 2012 campaign and it made me want to finish this blog that I’ve been working on for two weeks. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into researching this and finding out all the facts about the Kony 2012 campaign and the efforts of the Ugandan government.
I’ve noticed that a lot of people have been jumping on the Kony 2012 bandwagon without knowing the facts about the situation and have been seduced by the viral video. This really does sadden me. I’m fully aware that people may disagree with me on these matters and that it is a bit controversial, but this needs to be said. The storyline initially focuses on the storyline of Jacob and how he was part of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) and it eventually progresses to the fundraising and lobbying route to raise awareness and fundraise for Invisible Children, the campaign’s mother company. However I don’t think this is right. They want the public to target US politicians and policy makers to use their power to influence the government and to do more about the Kony situation. Why though? It isn’t within the United States’ jurisdiction, but the Invisible Children are now trying to make it be, that isn’t right. Now, what the Kony 2012 film did not tell you, is that the reality is that there has been a six-year effort to find and capture Kony, but it hasn’t happened. It isn’t that people haven’t been trying to find him, there have been repeated attempts to get Kony but none of them have paid off. It is easy for me to sit here and judge this campaign and the way that it is being led, but it’s just as easy for you to say that you’re part of the Kony campaign because you agree with a video when you’re ill-educated on the situation in Central Africa and what’s actually happening. I could agree with a video that states that violent films are brilliant and that they should be available to people of all ages, I don’t, but that doesn’t automatically make me part of a campaign to legalize violent films for young people. The United States has been getting involved in the issue with Kony recently – Obama told congress that he had agreed to send 100 troops to Uganda to help with the effort with Kony. Sound like a small amount for the ’30,000’ members of Kony’s LRA? You’re wrong, but I’ll tell you more about how later on. I don’t like how you have to buy a bracelet to be part of the ‘Kony Army’ and raise awareness. Once you receive your bracelet you’re meant to enter a code online and then, and only then, you’re part of the Kony Army. What I don’t understand is why you have to pay to be a part of something which is meant to purely be about raising awareness. Why do they feel the need to tell you that you should contribute by spending $30 on a pack of posters you put up over your town and canvass everywhere (which is illegal) and two bracelets with your unique codes? I don’t think it is right, especially when there have been discrepancies over the organisation’s finances.
Issues and inconsistencies in the records of finances for the organisation (Invisible Children) have been highlighted and raised. They have accepted money from far right political groups and anti-gay rights groups as well as oil companies. It is incredibly naive to think that these companies would donate millions of pounds to Invisible Children without having their causes promoted or helped in some respect as well. There are many issues with right-wing politics and anti-gay rights groups, and I think that Invisible Children should listen to the saying – You should deal with the problems at home, before fixing others. They’re picking and choosing what is right and what is wrong. The majority (70%) of money that is gained through people donating to invisible children is used to fund travel costs, salaries and film making costs – things that could be done free of charge or with less costs, instead of funding towards programmes to help people in Africa and prevent this. People that have given money to the Kony 2012 campaign now want their money back and are turning their backs on this cause due to the financial information coming to light. (More detailed information in the links below). The latest Sport Relief total has just come in. It now stands at a massive £29.1m but that is still pennies in comparison to the amount needed to help all of these children.
As it is mentioned in the Kony 2012 film, although very briefly and not very clearly, the LRA has left Uganda and is other parts of Africa now like Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It seems to be a common misconception when I talk to Kony Campaign supporters that he is still in Uganda due to the primary focus on the country from the documentary. If you ask a lot of Kony Campaign supporters where he is, they’ll either say Uganda or not even be able to name a country, let alone point to where it is on a map. It’s a bit ridiculous. As I said earlier, I said that I would cover the issue over the claim that there are 30,000 children still in the LRA. The reality is that there is only believed to be a few hundred people left in the LRA after numbers have transpired negatively over years, unlike the number mentioned in the video. The LRA have been on the run for six years and it would be impossible to still have such high numbers. The LRA is also much more dispersed now across these countries, and a lot of them lack leadership. For the past six years the Ugandan government has been after Kony with military forces, multi-national organisations and an army under a single central command now formed of military personnel from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, Uganda and Southern Sudan with other international support as well – but there is still no result. How can people with a biased view, who don’t even know where most of these countries are, really help? Invisible Children say it’s to raise awareness and to encourage the capture of Kony, but awareness is raised in Africa and Kony is a concern for the governments who are already trying to fight it.
Screenings, in northern Uganda, of Kony 2012 left some people outraged, hurling rocks, starting fights and it called for some of the screenings to be cancelled. The Ugandan people said it was like a political campaign for Kony with people wearing t-shirts with his name and face on. They thought it was disrespectful and insensitive to Kony’s victims. There was an estimated 35,000 people jeering and upset during screenings of the short film – more people than the director of Kony 2012, Jason Russell, said that there supposedly still is in the LRA let alone the actual number. When the Invisible Children found out about screenings of the film in Uganda and the negative reactions to the film, they said that the screening was not conducted appropriately and they were not aware of it. Now I’m sorry, but how can a screening be conducted incorrectly? I mean, these people all gathered wanting to see this film, open to the ideas and concepts of it and they were disappointed. If the feedback had been positive there is no doubt in my mind that the Invisible Children would have celebrated the success and revelled in the glory. A new total is about to be announced on Sport Relief. James Cordon and John Bishop are about to announce it before they leave the stage. John Bishop managed to raise £3.4million doing a triathlon for Sport Relief, I think that’s the most that a single individual has raised so far tonight. The flashing white numbers now stand against the red background. The total is now £45.9million.
Last year I took a module in Globalisation and Development and part of this made us look at the millennium development goals – goals set for third world countries to achieve by ‘realistic’ dates – even though many of these dates were highly unrealistic and countries are still nowhere near reaching them. Two of these were Education and Healthcare. Now, I think that people forget that Uganda is still a developing country, especially with the whole Kony Campaign. They don’t have electricity like we do, there aren’t many computers, and there certainly isn’t much internet. Things that we take for granted are the highest end luxuries over there. People forget that. It’s a daily struggle for a lot of people to stay alive and fight disease, get clean water, food and have an education. The Ugandan government is spending money on finding the LRA instead of putting more funding into those areas. 65% of pregnant women in Uganda are HIV+ and instead of spending money on drugs to help those women, they’re spending it on fighting Kony. There are many different angles to look at. There can be as many as 300 children to one teacher in classrooms in Africa, and those children still see themselves as lucky despite not getting an intimate education like we do in the UK. I don’t understand how raising awareness in Western countries helps to find Kony when so many people are already looking, and there is a lot of money being spent on this that really should be allocated elsewhere as it’s needed more urgently. I don’t understand why Invisible Children don’t spend more than 30% of their funding on ground work in Uganda. They spend a lot on tours across America, raising awareness for the cause but they do not make the money back for it – they make a loss. Maybe they should spend more money on causes rather than publicity? We should stop imposing our westernized views on African countries. It isn’t right. Who are we to tell people what causes they should be fighting and how funding should be spent?
As I’ve previously said, there are more people in need of healthcare throughout Africa. I’ve been watching Sport Relief all evening and there have been lots of different stories about Children who have been ill and died from across Africa, but right now I want to talk to you about the stories from Uganda. Drains are not common place in Uganda like they are in the UK, Ireland and the US, and we take them for granted. You’re probably thinking that I’m an idiot for talking about drains, but they really do save lives. A woman was talking about her six month old baby Christine and how when the floods came, her house was completely flooded. Her daughter was thirsty and wanted a drink so she fell off the bed to find one. As she did this, she ingested sewage from the flooding. Her daughter died three days later from diarrhoea, something that can be easily cured if the right medication is given or it can be prevented if people donate and give money to the charity to help them build ditches for the sewage to go into instead. The next film showed how a £5 vaccine could stop a little girl from having to spend a week fighting for her life in hospital. Another film showed Mohammed, a 6 week old baby, he had preventable pneumonia that the £5 vaccine could have stopped him from contracting. Sadly, he died an hour after the initial filming of him. His father was distraught. In countries like Uganda, a child dies every 20 seconds from a preventable illness. This is the real fight. This is the war that needs funding. We need to keep these children alive.
The Kony story isn’t as simple as it seems – and even then it doesn’t seem simple. It’s a sad story. It’s a global campaign that looks unlikely to succeed despite the uneducated support. It’s hard for people to accept that things don’t always go how they want, and I know that. But at the same time, I think people need to look at the background information and what’s actually been done to try to get Kony in the first place.
Myself and my fiancé have just seen a very sad clip on the show. A little boy was brought in by his father after having a preventable illness. His heart suddenly stopped. They worked half an hour to revive him. It was a success and the smile that the medic gave almost brought me to tears. Then he flat lined again and was sadly pronounced dead seven minutes later. His father was inconsolable. This is wrong. This shouldn’t happen. Millions of parents shouldn’t have to go through this – over 1 million children die in Africa every year from a preventable illness.
I think it’s wrong for people to sit in their rooms supporting the Kony cause and not getting actively involved when the whole thing is to catch a guy. The internet only goes so far – especially when it comes to countries that lack the capability to access this information. To pay $30 to get leaflets to post around a western town is wrong when really it’s needed in Uganda and the issue needs to be raised there. You’re not really supporting a cause if you’re only actively supporting it in a westernized environment. This is a perfect case of armchair activism – You do it online because you can’t be bothered to outside. I know that I’m being partially hypocritical there when I’m telling you all about Sport Relief, but hey – It does more good than it does harm. The Kony Campaign seems to do the opposite. It gives people a twisted view of reality by exaggerating the facts to ‘sex it up’ and make it more interesting to people. I think that it’s distracting people from other more important and pressing issues, not only in Uganda but in the whole of Africa. It’s negative publicity and people need to be reminded of the major issues that, as bad as it sounds, affects hundreds of millions of people, rather than no more than 300. I think it’s absolutely idiotic to allow the whole country to suffer at the hands of a few. It’s horrific and the Kony Campaign is promoting that. My fiancé, Stephen, said a really good line the other day when we were discussing this, which I think sums up this whole campaign. ‘Kony is a problem, but the Invisible Children are not the solution.’ And I completely agree with that. The tagline to Kony is ‘Nothing is more powerful than an idea’, so I suggest this. If you want to help thousands and millions of people by donating money to a charity – donate it to a trust worthy one – Sport Relief, or just raise awareness across the world for it. Invisible Children will make your money disappear; Sport Relief will ensure it gets to the people who need it.
Please donate money if you can or try to convince your parents to if they can – I’m sure that if you get an allowance you could give up part of that to help save a child’s life or help save hundreds of people.
Want to really help children – not just in Uganda, but other third world countries? If you’re in the UK, you can phone: 03457 910910. If you’re from somewhere else in the world, or want to you can donate online here:http://www.sportrelief.com/ Alternatively you could buy the Sport Relief single (Proud – JLS) on iTunes for less than £1, or head down to a Sainsbury’s store and get your hands on some Sport relief merchandise!
I don’t usually encourage people to spend money on things or plug causes like this, but if people really want to make a difference without actively getting involved, this is the way to. I hope that this blog has left everyone a bit more informed on the whole situation and the best way to fundraise, I just thought that it needed to be said. If you want to read any more information on the ongoing Kony situation then please see the links below, or if you want more information on Sport Relief, then please click the link above.
I asked you at the start to make a note of the time that you started reading this, now make a note of the time that you finished. Remember that one child dies ever 20 seconds, that’s three children a minute. How many children have died from a preventable illness in the time you’ve taken to read this? It’s shocking, isn’t it? Thanks for taking the time to read this.
Want to learn more about the Kony situation: