What some KSU Africans think of ‘Kony2012’


Reshmi Mehta, sophomore political science major and member of Kent State’s Invisible Children chapter posed for a picture with Richard Olunya, an engineer working to build schools in the northern region of Uganda. Photo by Jacob Byk.

Candice Dungan

Not too long ago, the phrase “Make Kony famous” plastered Facebook pages. The nonprofit organization Invisible Children created the video “Kony2012” to spread awareness of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army among America’s youth.

Kony is the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan guerrilla group. The group has been abducting children to become sex slaves and soldiers since 1986. In that time, the video says, they have abducted an estimated 66,000 children and displaced 2 million people in four different African countries.

“There’s a lot of things that run through my mind when I think about this video,” said graduate student Penina Acayo. “First and foremost, the mere fact that Invisible Children said and did what they said they would do is one thing.”

Acayo grew up in Uganda and said she had many family members affected by the war, including a cousin who was abducted by the LRA.

“I have seen what the war has done. I have seen people live in refugee camps and leave their homes,” Acayo said. “I have seen some relatives of mine living in camps because of this war.”

Majier Mamer Deng, a Lost Boy of Sudan survivor and Kent State student, explains spreading awareness of the LRA is a good thing.

“It made me feel good that there were people that care about other people,” Deng said. “Like what was going on in Darfur. A lot of people talk about it here in America, and I was so happy because there was no Darfur here, but they talk about it to bring attention to people.”

Deng said he was very happy with what the media has done and he wishes they had those capabilities when he was a child orphan in Africa.

When the “Kony2012” video was released, young people were quick to support the cause but were soon bombarded with criticisms. Blogs posted negative comments about Invisible Children and the cause.

“A lot of people are misinformed and don’t really know what they are talking about,” said junior Kristin Mulcahy, the president of Kent State Invisible Children. “They use blogs as fact and it’s not fact. TMZ is not fact. If you look at CNN, ABC, those are actual factual news sources.”

Mulcahy explains that rather then accept blogs as facts, she wishes students would ask her for the truth.

Blogs criticized Invisible Children for putting only 30 percent of revenue toward the cause. Invisible Children then counteracted by posting a breakdown of their expenses in which they explain a three-fold system. After the organization pays for fundraising and management, (19.46 percent of its income) the remaining funds are divided between central African programs (37.14 percent), awareness programs/products and media and film creation (43.4 percent).

“Invisible Children may not be the cause that you want to go to, but it is ours so please don’t knock it down without any factual evidence.” Mulcahy said about supporting the organization.

Other blogs said Kony is no longer a threat and therefore the cause is not legitimate. Some blogs implied that Kony is dead, and others said he was no longer terrorizing Uganda.

Acayo explained that the war is no longer going on in Uganda, which she said was a flaw of the “Kony2012” video, but it is continuing in Congo and other surrounding countries.

“Right now the people in Congo need our help, and there is a war,” Acayo said. “Whether people want to deny the fact that it is a war or not, it’s there.”

The “Stop Kony” campaign has also been attacked for over-simplifying the war. Washington Post and CNN articles referred to a story by Foreign Affairs, which states Invisible Children and other groups have ignored other problems within Uganda.

“They rarely refer to the Ugandan atrocities or those of Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army, such as attacks against civilians or looting of civilian homes and businesses, or the complicated regional politics fueling the conflict,” the Foreign Affairs story said.

Acayo said she could see how people would say it was simplified, but it still gathered the awareness it intended to.

“There were mistakes that they made and they could have done it better,” she said, “but at the end of the day they did something that no one else had the guts to do.”

Recently, co-founder of Invisible Children, Jason Russell was in the news for allegedly running through the street in his underwear, screaming and pounding his fists on the sidewalk.

“I think the world just drove him crazy. He made this video and he made it very personal. His son was included in it and his son was getting threatened,” Mulcahy said. “Invisible Children is him. It is such a part of him, and he didn’t want to be famous. No one knew that this was going to happen and I think that the world just broke him.”

Mulcahy explained that she could empathize with Russell because Invisible Children is also plays a huge role in her life.

“We have a saying here at Invisible Children, ‘If it was a heart attack people would understand, but we are just not sensitive to issues of the brain.’” Mulcahy said.

Contact Candice Dungan at [email protected].