Pro V. Con: Invisible Children not the best way to spend your dollars

Pro V. Con: Invisible Children not the best way to spend your dollars

Scott Novak, Opinion Editor

This is the con argument on Invisible Children.  To read the pro argument, click here.

For those who haven’t seen the viral KONY 2012 video, Invisible Children (IC) wants to find and stop Joseph Kony, who has abducted about 30,000 children to fight for him in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) since the 1980s. Without a doubt, IC’s goal to stop Kony is a worthy cause. But good causes do not necessarily equate to a good organizations.

The first thing to consider when thinking about whether to donate to charities is how they spend their money. A good way to investigate this is to look up the charity’s IRS Form 990. This form makes for a more reliable source than a charity’s annual report, as there is no marketing involved in it, as it’s a tax form. According to IC’s IRS tax form 990, they made $13.7 million in 2010. Only $2.8 million of this was spent on grants, about 20.4 percent. Over $1 million went to travel, $851,000 went to production costs, $357,000 went to film costs, and $244,000 went to professional services. Basically, they spend as much on filmmaking, lobbying, and traveling as they do on serving.

Out of all my Facebook friends that have posted statuses supporting IC, I bet few of them would be able to locate Uganda on a map. This leads me to my main problem with IC, which is that they leave one with a grossly oversimplified idea of the situation in Uganda.

First of all, American involvement with Kony started long before IC existed. However, every mission to stop Kony has been a complete failure, which is perhaps why so many Americans don’t know about it.

According to an article published by Foreign Affairs called “Obama takes on the LRA,” U.S. African Command has had soldiers deployed in Uganda for years. In 2008, there was an attempt to take down the LRA. The failed Operation Lightning Thunder, the mission aimed at capturing or killing Kony, remains unmentioned.

The LRA responded viciously to these failed attacks. In January and February 2009, the LRA abducted around 700 people, including an estimated 500 children, and killed almost 1,000. The local population, caught between a rebel group and an army that does not prioritize civilian protection, are largely ignored by IC.

In other words, pursuing Kony has done much more harm than good. IC also cooperates with the Ugandan military in tracking down Kony, a military that has a history of human rights abuse just as horrid as the LRA.

Even if Kony was killed, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.  The LRA will not cease to exist because of the death of a single man. Furthermore, until the region’s poor government is fixed, there can be no lasting peace. Addressing such a problem would take a huge deployment of peacekeeping troops with a long-term commitment to stay in the country, and even then, it might still be unsuccessful (think of Iraq).

So why does IC spend so many resources on Kony’s capture? My guess is that while Kony is not the direst of Africa’s problems, he is the best villain and therefore the easiest to make a movie out of. One only needs to watch “Invisible Children Global Night Commute Musical” to validate this point. The video itself, unlike KONY 2012, is possibly the corniest thing I have ever watched on YouTube.

If you want to help Africa, a much better way to spend your money is fighting malaria. Make a donation to Against Malaria Foundation, a top-rated charity where 100 percent of your money goes to malaria nets. Insecticide-treated nets stop malaria, they’re cheap, and they save lives.

The only reason why malaria continues to be a problem in Africa is money. Africa has many other problems like malaria that are preventable with donations. Kony is not one of these problems.

IC is right when it says that individuals can change the world, but with the power to cause change comes responsibility. If IC has inspired you to care more about Africans, that’s great, but please, take the next step and research how you can help them most effectively.

Scott Novak is an Opinion Editor for The Patriot and