Friday, March 9, 2012

Kony 2012, LRA Crisis Tracker, and the Money Trail

Kony 2012 is BIG, really big! Will it maintain a momentum? That seems to be the question Invisible Children knows the answer to, hence the “2012”. They want it "now" and they are reiterating  the deadline because they know the momentum will not be sustainable. I think that’s smart. It is obviously a smart organization with an equally smart campaign. The campaign is even making me feel smarter as I attempt to get answers to the many questions it leaves me to ask. What is being done with the money? Is it true what people are saying, that Kony is no longer in power or effective? Why aren’t the citizens able to stop this singular man?

This morning I was encouraged to look into the LRA Crisis Tracker, which is where the money is going to according to the film maker and spokes person of Kony 2012 (I’m terrible with names, and I’m sure he’s sincere about his mission and not trying to claim personal fame, his purpose is for me to remember the name Kony rather than his own name.) Google leads me to several interesting sites. has a nice little film showing me how to use the tracker. Great software that shows me the past attacks of the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army). Is this tool being used for prevention? Defense? If so, why didn’t they mention that? Why do I need to know the geography of the past attacks; is it to prove it really has happened? The site is really slick and gives counts of civilian deaths and abductions over the past month, past year, and total since December 2009. They also have a link that explains what the LRA is, which I’m interested in. Why “Lord’s” resistance? Is this an indication of where this started and what Koby’s original intentions were?

The Resolve partnered with Invisible Children to produce the LRA Crisis Tracker. Google results interested me because it seemed to be asking for a "vote" to win a prize of some sort. A profiteering motive is the accusation du jour regarding Kony 2012, so I clicked the link. Evidently, The Resolve is promoting the tracker for a prize, awarded by the prestigious TED organization, for Ads Worth Spreading. I don't think they need my vote; the proof is in the pudding as "they" say. Resolve introduced the Tracker through their website as a result of their partnership commenced with Invisible Children in September, 2011; their banner shows the app available through iTunes Store; another indication of possible profiteering? I couldn't find a price, only the preview on the iTunes site.

On the Resolve site, I did a search for LRA Tracker and found some interesting releases regarding the tracker, as well as how the Resolve Organization is spending money, much of these expenditures are related to LRA Tracking. At this point I don't care if they are selling the app because it's too hard to find the cost through Resolve. Every charitable organization spends their money on administration, and as much as we the people want to see 100% of our donations go directly to those most in need, it is unreasonable to expect the people who run these organizations to have the heart or the ability to entirely support causes with their own resources. On the other hand, some charities are less charitable than others, and even the government doesn't do as good a job of living within their means as you or I do. Invisible Children has posted their financial information from the year 2006 if you are interested.

Another Resolve article that Google results lead me to answers the question, "What good does this information from the Tracker do?" This Security Brief was released "Based on data collected throughout the year from NGO and UN reports, field research, and HF early-warning radio networks, the report reviews LRA activity during 2011 in the tri-border region between DR Congo, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic (CAR)." The report is interesting, and I love data, so I'm glad that they've summarized the data for us scientists to ponder.

So many comments regarding the Kony 2012 movement (see how it's no longer a "campaign") involve feelings of doubt in the truth of situation (propaganda fears) and the need to take care of our own. Statements like, "Even if it's real, we can't afford to send our soldiers to fight someone else's cause? Why can't they deal with just one man? What are they doing about it on their own?" Why couldn't the world deal with Hitler? Nero? A snake in a garden? The question's intention is not as ignorant as the question itself. Some of the more knowledgeable and official criticism of Invisible Children's organization involve the lack of effect for a more complicated issue, with a deep background. So, what is that background?!

Invisible Children's website seems very fair and transparent, from exposing their financial to sharing their space with critique from other sources. Also included is their version of the history of the war that started in 1986 with the Holy Spirit Movement. Kony assumed power of the movement and changed it's name to the Lord's Resistance Army. The Ugandan Government responded to the LRA activities by creating safe haven camps. In 2005, the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Kony's arrest. In subsequent years the LRA has killed and kidnapped hundreds at a time, over attacks that last days to weeks, without the rest of the world knowing for months. 

It seems to me that if we can do anything for these people, it is to provide them with tools to communicate and defend themselves. We train armies all over the world. We have troops in Africa to give some kind of support. I just can't imagine that these attacks occur, without forewarning, without fore planning, without communication before or after an event, with any percentage of the purported 30,000 soldiers recruited attacking all at once to accomplish these large massacres. I'm not saying it didn't happen, I just can't imagine it is possible, to still be happening, even after the decades of destruction. These are people, they are not lemmings. These are human beings, an evolved species like any other with the primary goal to survive in the environment. How is it they can be so helpless on either an individual or a community level? What is getting in their way to defend themselves against one man? How is this one many able to manipulate the entire world into giving him the supplies to support his heinous activities? This simply doesn't make sense! There is so much I don't know, or is there? Is the truth of my ignorance that there is nothing to be ignorant of? Why does even writing that make me feel guilty? Because if it is true, and I doubt it to the point I do nothing, then I am as guilty as Kony.

I can say, if it were me, I would always be on alert, I would organize a watch, I would arm myself with what I had and use what I had to improve my defenses. I would give what I could to insure timely intelligence and loyalty of informants. I would protect my most valuable resources, my children. I would defend to the death, not be killed in my sleep. So the real question I have, and do not feel guilty asking an answer for, "Why aren't they doing anything on an individual and community level?"

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