by Mikhail Bell
On November 16-17, after a topsy-turvy year, Invisible Children became reacquainted with its core competency – advocacy – at Move:DC. The event drew over 12,000 participants and commenced its final mobilization day with the Walter E. Washington Convention Center-hosted Global Summit on the LRA.
In 2003, Jan Egeland, former Under-Secretary-General (USG) for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, described Uganda’s neglected humanitarian situation a “moral outrage.”
Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey echoed Egeland’s praise for the young crowd during his Move:DC address. The Deloitte and JP Morgan alumnus saw Invisible Children’s first documentary about child soldiers several years before joining the organization. Keesey felt an emotional connection to the kidnapped children’s plight but knew a collective effort was necessary. “I am so proud that you felt that emotion,” Keesey said, praising his audience of approximately 10,000.
Okot Jolly, Country Director for Invisible Children Uganda, affirmed the need for Kony’s capture, saying: “You stood for the voice of the voiceless and I want to say ‘thank you’ so much for supporting Invisible Children… Joseph Kony has to go to the ICC [International Criminal Court] or to God.”
Moments later, Okot brought out several dozen former child soldiers, some of whom benefited from the LRA Crisis Tracker, an early warning system to alert villages to impending attacks. “Disagreement with Invisible Children does not mean Joseph Kony should not be brought to justice. So I want to say ‘thank you critics,’” she responded to the international pushback against the organization’s work.
Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell elucidated his vision for Kony 2012 at a Liberty University talk on November, 7 2011.
“Our hope at Invisible Children is not to guilt you into doing something…all guilt does…[is] make you cry and you give your money and then you feel bad and go to Starbucks… we [at Invisible Children] feel like God calls us to be joyful in the work that we’re doing no matter what we’re doing.”
Over the ensuing eight months, including appearances on the “Today Show” and Oprah’s “Next Chapter” appearances, IC has focused its PR on clarifying Russell’s exceptional work. His own words best characterize Invisible Children’s unlikely rise: “You make plans and God laughs and says you are actually going to do this. A six month [documentary] project turned into an eight year journey.”
In his earlier Liberty University talk, Russell warned against the “idolatry of magnitude,” the temptation to seek fame for the sake of aggrandizement. Jacob Acaye, the Ugandan boy who inspired Invisible Children’s creation, is an example of an individual who has circumvented such a pitfall. Acaye is now studying to become a lawyer, which is far removed from the same child who eight years earlier wanted to commit suicide.
Acaye tipped his hand, saying: “You who are here… are smart in the mind, you are smart in the heart. And that is why justice will win no matter what [opponents]…think.”
Time will tell what will happen to Joseph Kony and Invisible Children. However, the surrounding events have caused all involved to scrutinize themselves, their giving, and indeed our broken world more closely.
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