Almost exactly a year ago, a little-known organization called Invisible Children released Kony 2012, an incredibly slick video intended to educate the public on the need to bring Joseph Kony, the Lord’s Resistance Army’s leader who has been accused of facilitating rape and child abuse in Uganda, to justice. The video went viral, with over 96 million YouTube views to date.
But almost immediately, cracks in the campaign began to show: the public accused Invisible Children of simplifying a conflict that wouldn’t be solved by arresting Kony, who isn’t even in Uganda anymore. And then there was the very public breakdown of Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell, who appeared to have also cracked under the pressure. So where is the Kony 2012 campaign now?
In the video above, Invisible Children admits that the campaign had some flaws: "Joseph Kony became the most wanted man in the world. People got on board by the millions. But because the story spread so quickly and there were so many voices, the message got confusing. But our voice and our mission never changed," the narrator insists.
Invisible Children has indeed been active in the past year. According to the organization, it has created five "Safe Reporting Sites" where LRA combatants can safely surrender; organized over 300 lobby meetings with Congress, resulting in the Rewards for Justice Bill, which offers up to $5 million for information leading to Kony’s arrest (he’s still on the loose); opened the first rehab center in the Democratic Republic of Congo for LRA-affected youth; and more.
Despite the overblown video, Invisible Children is a legitimate charity--it gets four out of four stars on financial health from Charity Navigator. It hasn’t brought Kony to justice, but it’s a relatively small organization of 60 people--and in any case, a larger organization wouldn’t exactly have an easier time.
Invisible Children may have been noticed originally because of its short film, but these days, it’s trying--and so far succeeding--at maintaining legitimacy.