What’s the Deal with Invisible Children?

16 10 2010

Why is it that every time there is a news article reporting that the Lord’s Resistance Army is still active in Uganda, it is talking about an Invisible Children event?

It makes me want to scream every time I read articles like this recent one titled WHS students raising funds to aid Uganda’s ‘Invisible Children’ which states:

“”Invisible Children” are children who are running from child soldiers in Uganda. They are not able to go to school or live in their homes because they are always in hiding. They often become “night commuters” which means they walk all night to find a safe place to sleep during the day.”

So, basically, students at Windsor High School in Colorado are putting their hearts and souls into raising money for a situation that doesn’t even exist anymore.  The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has not been active in Uganda for five years, and the “night commuters” are a thing of the past here.

I’m not saying that everything is peachy in northern Uganda.  Communities were torn apart during the conflict, the economy has not recovered, and many people are returning to burned-out homes and overgrown fields and now need to rebuild their lives.  And the LRA is still doing horrible things in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic and need to be stopped.

Invisible Children did an incredible job in the mid-2000s to raise awareness in the West about the atrocities that were taking place here in Uganda during that time and during the previous 20 years.  I absolutely respect and appreciate that.

But now I am starting to wonder about their motives.  Perpetuating the idea that the war is still taking place in Uganda doesn’t help anything except their own massively effective fundraising efforts.

I have written directly to Invisible Children about this issue.  Their response is that they have so many people volunteering for them and spreading publicity that they just can’t control it.  If that is true, it seems totally unprofessional to me.  If false messages are being put out in their name, they should want to have tighter control over it.

They should demand that all public events showing their films or being hosted by their clubs get approved through their central office and they should require that any information being given to the press should be accurate.  In fact, they should have a press sheet that gets sent automatically to local media that represents the current situation in Uganda accurately.

Which brings up another issue – why aren’t these local reporters doing any fact-checking before posting their stories?  It’s not that hard to do a quick web search to find out that the conflict is over here in Uganda.

The other possibility, one that I don’t want to believe, is that they realize it is in their best interests to have people believe the war is still happening here.  Invisible Children is very much associated with northern Uganda, and they may be afraid that their fundraising efforts will suffer if people realize the LRA has moved on to other countries.  If this is true, it makes me even angrier because they are preying on the young people who are fundraising for their work based on false information.

I am sure I will hear from somebody at Invisible Children about this post, reaffirming that they just can’t control their press.  But, there are dozens of organizations working on the redevelopment of northern Uganda and Invisible Children is the ONLY one that I ever see associated with statements claiming the war is still active here.  Why are they the only organization that can’t control their press?

Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala

UPDATE:  Follow the link to read a Response by Invisible Children

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9 responses

27 10 2010
Response by Invisible Children « Wild Thoughts from Uganda

[…] Texas, East Coast, and Middle America Assistant Regional Manager for Invisible Children after my earlier post.  It sounds like they have made some commitments to take action in their next tour season to […]

27 10 2010
Ashlee

Hello there!
I’m a student at WHS and I’m in the International Relations class currently working on this service project.

The thing is, we aren’t raising money to end night commuting or help child soldiers. We’re raising money to rebuild the schools destroyed by the war and we’re participating in the book drive to give the Ugandan students books. We know the money doesn’t go to helping the (now) non-existent night commuters; we’re quite aware they’re not in that unfortunate situation anymore.

The article in the newspaper was slightly taken out of context, as we were only giving background information for anyone who wants to know more about the organization.

I appreciate you taking notice that we really are pouring our hearts and souls into our service project, but like you said, you can’t believe everything you read.

So that’s my two-cents to you on the real story.

Thanks! 🙂

27 10 2010
Mark Jordahl

Thanks, Ashlee. I’m glad to hear that you are working with accurate information. And I have heard from Invisible Children that, starting with their next tour season, they will be distributing press sheets to make sure that local media get the story right.

Good luck with your fundraising!

Mark

23 10 2010
Renee

If you have ever been to one of these events, especially those put on by the Roadies, they always debrief the audience and show and update film that is current to the situations in Uganda and those surrounding countries. They have never hid the fact that night commuting has ended and their website constantly refers to the LRA now being in the Congo and the Sudan. Their attentions that still exist towards Uganda are solely and clearly defined as rebuilding schools, villages, etc. The people that dedicate their lives to this cause see no money, and even sleep in their vans while on the road to share this story. I think it is shameful that you put their cause and efforts to sound as though there is an alterior motive.

Frankly, you went into this tirade without doing your homework. It sounds like you have lost your credibility while trying to tarnish the Invisible Children’s.

25 10 2010
Mark Jordahl

I am well aware that IC does give current updates at their events and am not questioning the commitment of the roadies or others involved. My main issue is with their lack of responsibility around the media messages that are being put out in their name. If you sign up for Google Alerts for “Uganda,” you will see at least one or two articles every month that have stories about Invisible Children events that lead the reader to believe the war is still happening here. I imagine that many more people read the story than actually attend the event to get the updated information, and thus the misinformation spreads. This could be remedied by a simple press sheet that is given to reporters who want to cover the event.

This is not a new issue, and I am not the first person to criticize them for it or to write about it. It has been nearly a year since I first contacted them directly about it, not wanting to put anything out to the public if it could be dealt with internally within the organization. I was told they were aware of the issue, and they even followed up with me to say they had a meeting about it and were putting new policies in place to stop it from happening. Clearly that didn’t happen, or it didn’t work.

In terms of losing my credibility, I will just have to feel satisfied with the fact that I have had many Ugandans thank me for the post. There is far too much inaccurate information about Uganda out in the world, and those of us who are involved here have a responsibility to correct it whenever possible.

21 10 2010
U.S. Kids Duped / Africa Disparaged «

[…] they become unnecessary. They won’t admit it. According to Mark Jordhal, whose wonderful Ugandan blog first broke this story, Invisible Children doesn’t deny that they are still claiming that the […]

21 10 2010
tumwijuke

Amen and Amen!

And Amen to that again!

I don’t think Invisible Children want to control their press. Ignorance was and still remains their greatest weapon.

17 10 2010
torkin wakefield

I’ve noticed the same thing. And its is hard to believe that Invisible Children wants to put out the truth that the war is over because every time I hear about the Invisitble Children it is always the same old story from years ago.

Torkin Wakefield

17 10 2010
Mark Jordahl

Yep – it is time for them to catch up to the current reality. They can do more good by telling the truth and getting the world focused on the issues that need to be dealt with rather than deflecting energy and resources to a situation that no longer exists.

Mark D. Jordahl Conservation Concepts 256 775 295 126 Blog: https://conserveuganda.wordpress.com Website: http://www.ConservationConcepts.net

“Give me a Wildness whose glance no civilization can endure.” – Henry David Thoreau

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