Is Kony a Phony?

A local student activist shares her thoughts on the KONY 2012 criticisms 

By Dee Myra

Despite the positive buzz surrounding Kony 2012 and Invisible Children, critics have emerged pointing to cracks in their case and even going as far as calling the whole thing is a scam. 

Several critics claim the viral video is heavily manipulated to suit Invisible Children’s interests and may have even been created as a money-maker for the organization. Others highlight that the current state of Uganda hasn’t been as peaceful as it is now in decades, so why now all of a sudden?

The Invisible Children are also put under the spotlight for working with the Ugandan Army, who themselves have committed many human rights crimes such as rape and murder. And still, some suspect that Invisible Children is just a scam.

“Good but Flawed Is Better Than Horrible” ran a recent Forbes headline describing the KONY 2012 campaign. So what is “flawed” in all of this controversy and what really matters?

Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff.


According to a number of sources, a recent audit of Invisible Children showed that only about 31% of donations go directly towards helping Ugandans, while the non-profit itself claims that 50% of their “budget provides top-notch programming for affected children and their families.”

Then what do they claim happens to the other 50%? The 2011 Invisible Children financial report states a large portion of their revenue is allocated to media & film creation, awareness products & programmes, and management.

The issue regarding their fund allocation can be boiled down to the fact that Invisible Children is not a government organisation. They pay for their campaigning and administrative fees. It seems to me that using funds for campaigning and spreading awareness is not as bad as many people make it out to be. Without funds allocated for campaigning, millions of people today wouldn’t be aware of Kony and his crimes, resulting in less monetary support and governmental aide.

However, Invisible Children offers a solution for those wishing more of their money went to directly helping Ugandans. Skeptical donors can support The Schools for Schools (S4S) programme that promises to donate 90% of all monetary gifts to rebuilding schools.

With more money and resources flowing into Uganda through Invisible Children, the reliance on the Ugandan Army to carry out an important mission objective – capture Kony – leaves some feeling a bit uneasy.  The Ugandan Army is not innocent. The human rights abuses committed by the Ugandan government and army cannot be defended in any form.


Uganda is barely, if at all, democratic and Yoweri Museveni, the president of Uganda, ushered himself to a 4th term last year. This brings him to over 25 years in power. Corruption is rampant, social services are minimal and crimes against human rights by the government are not only well-documented, but common.

Stopping Kony won’t change any of these facts. If more equipment and money flow towards Musevini’s military, Kony 2012 may even worsen some problems. But still, in my eyes, the only feasible and proper way to stop Kony is to coordinate efforts with regional governments. It seems there is no other choice.


Let’s say then that all of our efforts paid off and Kony is caught, what happens next and what does that mean?

Invisible Children seems to oversimplify their message from “Stop Kony and help people affected by him and the LRA to live a better life” to merely “Stop Kony.” And while their intents might be pure, their methods are somewhat misguided.

The main flaw with Invisible Children’s KONY 2012 propaganda is that they do not state clearly what happens afterwards. When Kony is killed or captured, then what? The main target in the campaign is Uganda, where the main problems debilitating their society is poverty and disease. Yet, will stopping Kony help to solve these problems? I suppose it will at least give the Ugandan people one less threat to worry about.


I am not degrading Invisible Children’s efforts, but rather trying to find and offer some clarity in a confused situation. People will be skeptical of Kony 2012.  To that I say: if you don’t support Invisible Children, you don’t have to support them. There are several other non-profit organisations that have a similar cause. I think it’s always important to do your research before jumping on an activist bandwagon.

Ultimately though, let’s focus on what matters, and that is Kony needs to be stopped. But it doesn’t end there. There are people to help, schools to build, sick to be attended to, mouths to feed and the list continues. If nothing else at all, Invisible Children has accomplished their main goal, and that is to make Joseph Kony a household name. It’s up to you to decide what you do with this newfound knowledge.

SIDE NOTE: If you are interested to join Dee and other local activists in spreading the word about KONY 2012 on April 20th, check out her Facebook event for more.