Social media users, including BYU students, are helping draw attention to a Ugandan military group which abducts children and forces them to fight for them by generating more than 50 million views on YouTube as of Friday. However, some are urging caution before people donate money to the cause.
Kony 2012 is trying to bring attention to Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, to raise support for his arrest and set a standard for international justice. People are spreading the word via Facebook with people posting and sharing a video attempting to make Kony so well known that people will support his arrest. The Lord’s Resistance Army is known for abducting children from Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Sudan and forcing these children to fight. The International Criminal Court has branded Kony a war criminal.
Eric Schwantes, a junior from Kodiak, Alaska, studying pre-business, said in an email that bringing attention to just Kony will not be enough to solve the issue at hand.
“The only realistic way for this to end is a complete elimination of the leadership of the organization, not just Kony,” Schwantes said. “You remove him, and his organization remains and someone just fills his spot. However, you eliminate the organization and the framework thereof and the likelihood of it returning is much less. Without leadership there is no organization, and without organization there is no power.”
Schwantes said even though the attention to the issue is positive, people need to think about what they are asking of others.
“I wholeheartedly agree that the events that are occurring are awful and should be stopped,” Schwantes said. “But you need to ask yourself, would you be willing to do more than be an armchair cheerleader or would you be willing to be involved in a military engagement yourself, you enlisting in a military service to stop this? Because that’s what you’re asking others to do.”
Schwantes said that since so many people are bringing attention to the issue now, it has started to trend.
“I started caring yesterday when people started jumping on the bandwagon and I decided to research and understand more about the issue,” Schwantes said. “It’s popular now because because it’s popular, that’s really the center of the issue. It’s trending.”
Grant Oyston said on his Tumblr account, Visible Children, that Invisible Children, the not-for-profit organization responsible for the 30-minute video “Kony 2012,” may not be using the money they receive as people think.
“Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again,” Oyston said. “As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8.7 million. Only 32 percent went to direct services, with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport and film production.”
Dana Hilton, a student at Colorado State University from Aurora, Colo., said in a Facebook post concerning the post on Visible Children that some people want to help so badly they give money blindly to groups such as Kony 2012.
“I feel like we want so badly to save the world that we go about things blindly without checking it out further, and that’s really a shame,” Hilton said. “Of course I agree that Kony should be captured, but I don’t agree with supporting a supposed ‘non-profit’ organization that, in reality, spent over $8 million last year, most of which went towards salary and production of videos. I just think there’s a better way of showing support other than giving all this money to a sketchy organization who supports an army that’s corrupt in itself.”
Thamanna Vasan said on Facebook in a response to Hilton that people who donate are aware they are in the dark for what the money is used for.
“Everyone that has donated to this cause already is taking the chance that they will never know where that money went,” Vasan said. “Money is a powerful tool that can destroy or build in equal measure, we just have to be careful.”
Traci Gundersen, the director of the Utah Division of Consumer Protection, said her biggest concern about the Kony 2012 campaign and Invisible Children is the organization is not registered in Utah.
“The charity Invisible Children is not registered in the state of Utah,” Gundersen said. “In order for a charity to solicit donations in the state of Utah, it is required by law that the charity registers as such.”
Gundersen said the advice she would give people is to “do your research, give wisely and make sure the money is going to something you feel is important.”
In order to see what charities are registered and how they are using their money, visit dcp.utah.gov.
Regarding the Kony 2012 video, Schwantes said it makes people feel bad for those affected by Kony, but feelings don’t cause action.
“The video makers were extremely successful in producing a very well edited and well made video that appeals to emotion, which people can have empathy for,” Schwantes said, “but empathy is just compassion without action.”