Invisible Children, Moving Around the Problem


This week, Invisible Children released Move, they’re most recent film. The film’s goal is to shed some light on the aftermath of the Kony 2012 video, looking at how IC dealt with the rapid growth of the movement and how co-founder Jason Russell coped with the stress of being at the helm. The film also explained the immediate future of the Kony 2012 movement: a large-scale lobbying initiative to take place in November. If Kony is to be captured by the end of the year, a lot of pressure needs to be put on a number of governments to buckle down and really commit to the cause. The push, called Move:DC, aims to concentrate IC’s grassroots support all in one place – the nation’s capitol.

Three years ago, I went to the last big lobby day held by IC, Resolve, and Enough Project. The event was informative and effective, with educational workshops and lobby-training. There were multiple instances where I felt specifically that I was making a difference, that I was where I was supposed to be. And it wasn’t false: almost 2000 constituents made it one of the biggest lobbying initiatives, and over the following year I led a dozen local meetings with congressional staff – the bill ended up passing with more co-sponsors than any Africa-related legislation in modern history. With that in mind, Move:DC will be huge – and I think it will be effective. And while I don’t have the specifics for what the policy asks will be in November, there is a glimpse into what will be going on at the IC blog:

We ask that:

Governments in central Africa provide better protection for their people, while also denying Kony and his top commanders any safe haven. This includes the territory controlled by Sudan where Kony is thought to be hiding, and the Congo, which continues to downplay the impact of LRA violence.

The United States provide increased resources to help train and assist regional forces that are pursuing Kony and other top LRA commanders and contribute resources to overcome the critical gaps in air mobility needed to facilitate rapid movement above the difficult terrain of the region.

All donor governments expand funding for programs that directly benefit affected communities, including initiatives to develop basic infrastructure such as roads and communications systems and help rescue and rehabilitate LRA abductees.

Outside of beefing up military support, there are arguably relatively few drawbacks in these asks. Building up infrastructure in the rural LRA-affected areas could go a long way, and IC is already involved in rehabilitation centers, early warning radio networks, and dwog paco “come-home” messaging to encourage defections from the LRA. Moving our lawmakers to help add to these programs through development agencies could go a long way. The election will have already happened, so hopefully a lame duck Congress can be urged to move forwads on the issue. Lasting peace and the end to the LRA might not be in our grasps, but it could be on the horizon.

But Move fails to help IC truly recover from the Kony 2012 fallout. The film is right that a lot of the attention that was initially drawn to Kony and the LRA ended up turning on IC, detracting from the goal of the video. But they’re wrong to say that is a bad thing that resulted solely from a lack of communication. The video concentrates on the naysayers that called IC a scam, ignoring important critiques that looked at IC’s actual work and narrative and had problems with it. Firmly stuck in the middle of the two, I was disheartened to not see pushback from IC. Self-refelction is hugely important, and this was a chance for IC to better explain what it is they’re doing and why we should continue suppoting them. The video had a chance to respond to legitimate critiques about its model, about its goals, and about its programs. And instead it circumvented the whole conversation. It concentrated instead on its curent campaign, which has potential and is important – but the film easily could have (and should have) done both. I like to think that IC learned some good lessons from this spring, but the video suggests otherwise. Now, the narrative about Kony 2012 is as simplified as the narrative of Kony 2012.

Throughout the Move video, and through a lot of IC’s older films, is a motif of the millenials standing up and sticking it to the olds. It’s true that we get a lot of flak for being radically different from our forebears. With such a rapid change in technology, that’s a given. IC is absolutely right to call on America’s youth to prove them wrong, and I think a nationwide push to fund development in central Africa and encourage involvement in holding government accountable is laudable. But let’s also teach the millenials that when shit gets hard, you don’t just move on. We can simultaneously address critics, create a better and stronger movement, and help stop the LRA. Let’s do that.