It’s Been 7 Years Since The Charity ‘Invisible Children’ Posted Their Campaign Video ‘Kony 2012’. The Video Accumulated Over 100 Million Views Within 6 Days And Brought Kony To The Worlds Attention. But Where Is He Now?
When Invisible Children posted their campaign video back in March 2012 it caused what was probably the biggest social media storm ever at the time. Within 6 days the video smashed the record for the quickest YouTube video to reach 100 million views and 66% of the Twitter conversations within the first week the video was posted supported the anti Kony campaign. It had proved to be a marketing success and seemed to have pretty much everyones backing. But what actually happened to Joesph Kony? Why was he never caught? What happened to the charity ‘Invisible Children’?
The Background Of ‘The Lords Resistance Army’ And The Ugandan Conflict.
Joseph Kony was born on the 24th July 1961 in Uganda and is the leader/commander of the Lords Resistance Army (LRA), a guerrilla group that was created in 1987 and operates in North Uganda, South Sudan, The Central African Republic and The democratic republic Of Congo . The group emerged from the remnants of ‘The Holy Spirit Movement’, a millennial rebellion led against the Ugandan government forces of President Yoweri Museveni from August 1986 until November 1987. The group was bitterly defeated after suffering numerous defeats in 1987 resulting in the group splitting up into smaller factions. One of these being The LRA. Kony himself capitalised on the heavy defeats the Holy Spirit Movement endured as it created a power vacuum for which he would rise to the top.
The LRA’s aims are to overthrow the Ugandan government and to create a state based upon Kony’s interpretations of the 10 commandments. Whilst trying to pursuit these aims the group have reportedly abducted over 67,000 youth including 30,000 children for use as child soldiers and sex soldiers. Due to such brutality they are registered as a terrorist organisation by the United States government and prompted the first ever set of arrest warrants by the International Criminal Court for their reckless leader, Joesph Kony, along with other of his senior commanders. In 1996 the Ugandan government were unable to contain the notorious LRA which resulted in residents of North Uganda having to flee their villages and live in government based camps to avoid being terrorised by the group. However, these camps were infested with disease and were overcrowded with an estimated 1 million people living within these camps in the 90’s.
After years of terrorising the Ugandan government The LRA finally started negotiating peace deals with the Ugandan government in 2006. These would be known as the ‘Juba talks’ that went on for 2 years. However, these talks took a turn for the worst when Kony refused to sign the final agreement. In response to this the Ugandan government, with support of South Sudan and The Democratic Republic Of Congo (DRC), staged a full blown military offence on The LRA named ‘Operation Lightning Thunder’. The result of this saw The LRA members to be dispersed into neighbouring countries such as South Sudan and the DRC causing havoc for these countries . The UN reported in 2010 that an estimated 700,000 people had become internally displaced in South Sudan, DRC and The Central Republic Of Africa (CAR) as a result of LRA activities since 2008.
In 2010 Barrack Obama became aware of the seriousness of the problem in Uganda. As a result of this he sent 100 US military advisers to Uganda in order to help tackle the war criminal Joseph Kony. A year later affected governments were also becoming deeply concerned on the activities of The LRA thinking that they could in fact be facing a catastrophic humanitarian crisis. In response to this they joined together to form The Regional Cooperative Initiative For The Elimination Of The LRA in June 2011. A multicultural political framework to facilitate diplomacy and joint military action and oversee the long-term recovery of the LRA-affected areas. Its members include; South Sudan, Uganda, DRC and CAR. The group deployed roughly around 5,000 soldiers in 2012 to try and suppress the group. This is when the charity Invisible Children uploaded their KONY 2012 campaign video which would put the issue in the spotlight
The Charity ‘Invisible Children’
The charity was established in 2004 and its main aim was to bring awareness to the atrocities The LRA was committing in Central Africa and most importantly to help bring the worlds attention to the notorious leader Joseph Kony in order pressure world leaders into capturing the war lord.
The charity was founded by 3 amateur film makers; Jason Russell, Lauren Poole and Bobby Bailey. In 2003 the three went to Africa in search of a story to find. This search for a story almost cost them their lives. They cheated death after narrowly avoiding a car bomb in Uganda from The LRA. They stayed in Uganda for another month and witnessed hand on hand the devastation that this group had caused to the local area. They made their first documentary called ‘Invisible Children’ which was made to bring awareness to the child abductions occurring in the area.
They started to gather more attention whilst organising the ‘Global Night Commute’ in 2006. The idea was to get people to people to stay over nights in city centres and parks to raise awareness for the children being kidnapped by The LRA in Uganda. Over 58,000 people signed up to the event but the amount of people that participated in the event was 80,000 people. Not bad numbers considering the charity was only set up two years prior. The charity in 2006 had a net revenue of $3million which kept getting bigger and bigger every year. Between 2008 and 2011 the charity saw a steady net revenue of around $8-$13million.
Invisible Children reached its highest Level of commercial success in March 2012 when they uploaded their 30 minute documentary ‘KONY 2012’ to YouTube. To call the video a success would be an understatement. It smashed all the records at the time and caused a social media storm. The charity saw their net revenue for 2012 shoot up to a whopping $28million. Now more or less everyone in the world knew who Kony and The LRA was. So… What actually happened after this video was released?
Well the charity managed to expand their operations across Uganda, Congo, and the Central African Republic. But things seemed to take a turn for the worst for the charity. In the light of the huge media attention they received from the documentary one of the founders of the charity, Jason Russell, was filmed having a mental breakdown running around the street of Los Angeles. This brought with it negative press for the charity as this stole the spotlight following their highly successful campaign video.
If that wasn’t bad enough the charity was facing major criticism due to the way they were utilising the mass amounts of donations they were receiving. The charity had a low two star rating in accountability from Charity Navigator because they wont let their financials be independently audited. So the only way we can see how the charity utilises their donations is from the statistics they post on their website which in 2012 was only a mere 32% of their revenue, that is a shockingly low number for a charity. They also faced heavy criticism for over simplifying the issue that was occurring in Central Africa. There are more underlying factors other than just Joseph Kony himself. The charity completely ignored the atrocities that the Ugandan government had committed and were supportive of further militarising the area to try to help catch Kony when realistically further militarising the area could in fact be very damaging to the civilians in Uganda.
The charity also seemed to ignore the fact that Kony was in hiding in South Sudan and didn’t pose as much of a threat like he previously had done. The LRA was severely weakened and not as powerful as it once was.
The founders of the charity (Jason Russell, Lauren Poole and Bobby Bailey) were also under heavy fire from the press following a photo emerging of them posing with weapons with Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) soldiers back in 2008. This photo was taken shortly after the Juba talks had broken down between The LRA and the Ugandan Government. This brought about controversy as the SPLA have committed numerous war crimes throughout the years such as sexual abuse and rape. It also seemed quite hypocritical for these men to be promoting peace for Uganda and its neighbouring countries yet posing with weaponry with SPLA soldiers. Jason Russell responded to the press by saying the photo was merely just a joke to take back home to his family.
Seven Years Later… Where Is Kony Now? What Happened To ‘Invisible Children’?
Kony was never actually captured. In fact in 2017 the US officially called off their man hunt for the war lord along with Uganda who withdrew their troops from the Demographic Republic. Kony is still out there. Most likely hiding in the forests shadows. The LRA is not as much of a force as they once were with there only being reportedly only 100 active personal in 2017 , however the scars left behind by The LRA will continue to damage communities for years to come. As for the charity Invisible Children it was reported that they were most likely to fold in the year 2015 but this never actually happened. The charity is still actually around with them still posting content on their website. Nevertheless it’s safe to say they pretty much fell completely off the grid and that their grand scheme of operations has shrunk considerably over the years.