Questions and Answers

Thank you for doing more research about Invisible Children (IC) and KONY 2012. Hundreds of thousands of people have come out in support of KONY 2012 and the film’s intention of raising support for the arrest of Joseph Kony. There have also been some criticisms. This page seeks to set the facts straight and briefly answer the most common questions about the campaign and this very complex issue.

Founded in 2004, Invisible Children exists to bring a permanent end to LRA atrocities.

Invisible Children approaches the LRA conflict through an integrated four-part model that addresses the problem in its entirety: immediate needs and long term effects.

MediaMedia
We create films to document LRA atrocities, introduce new audiences to the conflict, and inspire global action.

Mobilization
Mobilization

We mobilize massive groups of people to support and advance international efforts to end LRA atrocities.

ProtectionProtection
We work with regional partners to build and expand systems that warn remote communities of LRA attacks and encourage members of the LRA to peacefully surrender.

RecoveryRecovery
We work to rehabilitate children directly affected by the LRA and invest in education and economic recovery programs in the post-conflict region to promote lasting peace.

Invisible Children doesn’t stop at documenting atrocities or activating youth or protecting civilians or rehabilitating post-conflict communities. We do it all.

QUICK LINKS:

Where can I see Invisible Children’s financial statements?

Invisible Children’s financial statements from the last 5 years, including our IRS Form 990 are available online to download: http://invisiblechildren.com/financials
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We are committed, and always have been, to be 100% financially transparent and to communicate in plain language the mission of the organization.

Invisible Children focuses exclusively on the LRA conflict through an integrated four-part model that addresses the problem in its entirety: immediate needs and long-term effects.

Invisible Children Model -  Fiscal Year 2012

Is Invisible Children independently audited?

Yes. Invisible Children has been independently audited by a certified public accounting firm since Fiscal Year 2006. Audited financial statements provide important information about a nonprofit’s financial accountability and accuracy. All of Invisible Children’s audits conform to “generally accepted accounting principles” (GAAP).

What is the strategy to end the LRA threat?

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The KONY 2012 campaign called for governments around the world to take part in a comprehensive approach to end the LRA threat to communities and to support regional governments in the effort to protect civilians and apprehend LRA leadership. This approach should include four main pillars (1) the protection of civilians, (2) the apprehension of LRA leadership, (3) the facilitation of the peaceful surrender of LRA combatants, and (4) support to rehabilitation efforts for communities and individuals affected by the LRA.

The African Union, with the support of the United Nations, is now leading the efforts to stop LRA atrocities. The protection of civilians should be a top priority of this effort and should include wider peacekeeping efforts in the region and the expansion of civilian early-warning networks. The apprehension of top LRA leadership will require cross-border coordination between regional governments and UN missions and will require increased intelligence and logistical support. DDR/RR (Demobilization, Disarmament, Repatriation, Resettlement, and Reintegration) efforts, including the use of “come home messaging” via FM radios and flier distributions in the region, have already resulted in successful surrenders. Efforts to complement current DDR/RR initiatives should be expanded to peacefully diminish the LRA threat to civilians. To address the immense levels of trauma that communities and individuals have suffered at the hands of the LRA, efforts should also be expanded to reintegrate formerly abducted children into their communities and assist those suffering from trauma.

What have been the results of Invisible Children’s Past advocacy efforts?

In 2008, our advocacy efforts, together with those of a coalition of international advocacy organizations, resulted in U.S. support of the Juba Peace Talks between the LRA and the Government of Uganda. Specifically, efforts prompted the U.S. appointment of a Special Envoy, Tim Shortley, to support the talks.

In 2009 and 2010 we directed our advocacy efforts towards the passage of the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act. The Bill was passed and signed in May 2010. Invisible Children was invited to attend the signing ceremony in the Oval Office.

In 2012 we lobbied for the expansion of Rewards for Justice legislation that will assist efforts to arrest Joseph Kony. The bill passed Congress in December 2012, and in January 2013 the White House invited Invisible Children’s CEO to attend the signing ceremony.

Advocating in the public policy arena is critical to achieving our advocacy goals, and we lobby within the limits of our nonprofit tax-exempt status. We are not a lobbying organization, nor are we affiliated with any political party.

Visit our Grassroots AdvocacY Program PAge for more information.

Does Invisible Children work with the Ugandan government or its military?

None of the money donated through Invisible Children has ever gone to support the government of Uganda or any other government. Yet the only feasible and proper way to stop Kony and protect the civilians he targets is to improve the efforts of regional governments, which we are advocating for, not supporting monetarily. The Ugandan military (UPDF) is a necessary piece in counter-LRA activities. No other LRA-affected country has a military that is equipped and competent enough to engage with the LRA. The UPDF has a solid understanding of the LRA’s tactics and methods of movement, and has developed working relationships with South Sudan and Central African Republic in combined efforts to stop LRA violence. The UPDF has reduced the size and strength of the LRA prodigiously. In May 2012 the UPDF apprehended Caesar Achellam, one of the top commanders in the LRA. In January 2013 another top commander, Vincent Binani, was killed in combat.

Invisible Children does not defend any of the human rights abuses perpetrated by the Ugandan government or the Uganda military (UPDF) or any other regional military. Any international support to the UPDF should be conditioned on the UPDF improving its human rights record. International attention focused on the UPDF in its counter-LRA activities will be a step towards ensuring that human rights abuses are reported and the perpetrators held accountable. As it complements efforts to end LRA violence, we encourage the African Union to be diligent about training troops in professionalism.

Have peace talks with the lra been attempted?

Over the last 27 years, multiple attempts to negotiate a peaceful end to the violence have been derailed by one side or the other. Kony has repeatedly abused peace talks as an opportunity to regroup, restock, and abduct new recruits. Most recently, the LRA engaged in the Juba Peace Talks with the government of Uganda from 2006-2008. Multiple times, Joseph Kony did not show up to sign the Final Peace Agreement. Moreover, in March 2008 (while the Juba Peace Talks were still underway) the LRA stole supplies and abducted more than 100 people in Central African Republic.

One important element in any strategy to bring an end to the LRA conflict is encouraging members of the LRA to surrender peacefully or attempt to escape. Invisible Children distributes defection fliers in the region and supports local FM radio stations in the region that encourage LRA soldiers to lay down their weapons and return home. 89% of LRA escapees say that FM radio messaging influenced their decision to escape. 7/12 escapees say that defection fliers influenced their decision to escape.

Why does this conflict require an international response?

The LRA started in northern Uganda in 1987. When they were pushed out of Uganda in 2006 they started committing atrocities in DR Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. Regional governments have been unable to capture Kony or end LRA violence because they lack the specific capabilities that would allow them do so. In 2005 Joseph Kony was the first person to be indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity and war crimes. The LRA is an international scourge, and stopping him will require an international response. The African Union, with the support of the United Nations, is now leading the efforts to stop LRA violence.

How does Invisible Children decide which programs to implement?

Invisible Children’s programs in Uganda, DR Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan are implemented with continuous input from local communities and their leaders. In Uganda, we learned very quickly that a top-down, Western approach was not the answer, and that local solutions were needed to fill critical humanitarian gaps. It is for this reason that over 95% of IC’s leadership and staff in Uganda are Ugandans on the forefront of program design and implementation. In DR Congo, Invisible Children works with the Commission Diocesaine Justice et Paix (CDJP), supporting projects that have been identified as priorities by local partners and that are responsive to local realities and needs. Invisible Children meticulously monitors and evaluates the impact of its work on the ground, employing qualified monitoring and evaluation professionals.

WHAT IS INVISIBLE CHILDREN’S STANCE ON THE ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL IN UGANDA?

Invisible Children believes in the equality of all people around the globe and is in no way an anti-gay organization. We stand firmly against any form of the the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that has been proposed in Uganda, and commend the tremendous progress the Ugandan LGBT community has made in showing the world that gay rights are indeed human rights. We believe that hate in any form is detrimental to our mission and that the liberty of all human beings is bound together.

IS INVISIBLE CHILDREN A RELIGIOUSLY-BASED ORGANIZATION?

Invisible Children is not a religiously-based organization. We celebrate the fact that our staff is made up of people from diverse backgrounds and belief systems. Throughout our history, many staff and supporters have shared their personal motivations for working on this important issue. While we encourage everyone to share their own story, the personal beliefs of any one staff member, volunteer, or supporter are not reflective of the organization as a whole. We have garnered support from people and organizations on all sides of the social, religious, and political spectrums over the last nine years. We are united, not in our religious or political beliefs, but in our desire to see an end to LRA violence.

ARE nonprofits allowed to lobby?

Federal laws allow, and even encourage, charities to lobby within certain specified limits. Invisible Children has been careful to stay within these legal limits. Each year, as part of our Form 990, we submit an additional schedule that provides the financial details of these activities. We have also elected 501(h) status–part of which is a commitment to continue to voluntarily report our lobbying expenditures to the IRS. The Invisible Children Form 990 and audited financials for the past five years are available on our website: http://www.invisiblechildren.com/financials

OF all the world’s conflicts, Why draw attention to Joseph Kony and the LRA?

Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army have been abducting, killing, and displacing civilians in East and central Africa since 1987. We first encountered these atrocities in northern Uganda in 2003 when we met a boy named Jacob who feared for his life and a woman named Jolly who had a vision for a better future. Together, we promised Jacob that we would do whatever we could to stop Joseph Kony and the LRA. Invisible Children was founded in 2004 to fulfill that promise.

The LRA crisis is not “more important” than other human rights abuses, but it is the one that Invisible Children, and the KONY 2012 campaign, aim to permanently end. We say that it requires an urgent response with the full conviction that many other injustices also require an urgent response. Our goal is that the apprehension and subsequent trial of Kony and his top commanders will set a precedent for how conflict and mass atrocities are dealt with in the future.

Why focus on Joseph Kony in particular?

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Joseph Kony is the founding leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. While the LRA command structure has become somewhat decentralized since the LRA’s move out of Uganda and into DR Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan, Kony remains the group’s supreme commander. He has been, and continues to be, the face of the LRA. Removing Kony from the battlefield is critical, but that alone will not end the LRA threat absolutely. His top commanders, two of whom are also indicted by the International Criminal Court, hold semi-autonomous power, and any comprehensive strategy to end LRA violence should include their arrest.

Why is it so difficult to capture Joseph Kony?

1) Recent evidence suggests that the government of Sudan was allowing Kony and a large LRA group to hide in the disputed Kafia Kingi enclave of South Darfur. It is critical that the regional governments and the international community place strong pressure on the government of Sudan to prevent the LRA from finding safe haven in its territory.

2) Operations in the LRA-affected area, including humanitarian, military, or otherwise, are extremely expensive. Even the most basic humanitarian services take a lot of time and money to deliver because of the remote and difficult terrain. Resources from all engaged parties need to be sustained or increased.

3) The LRA operates in four countries. In order to see an end to LRA violence, it is essential to invest time and energy in coordinating efforts between regional and international governments to protect people from LRA attacks and prevent the LRA from crossing borders with ease.

Joseph Kony has purposely operated in the remotest corners of DR Congo, Central African Republic, and South Sudan, regions of these countries where governance is extremely weak. By weaving between borders and taking advantage of the dense jungle that makes it so difficult for their pursuers to track them, the LRA have become experts of evasion and survival. There is little to no communication or transportation infrastructure in the region where the LRA is active. Because of this, it’s been difficult for attacked communities to call for help, let alone receive help in a timely fashion. It’s been reported that Joseph Kony, as a precaution, has forbidden the LRA from using mobile communication devices in favor of hand-delivered messages.

Is Joseph Kony still alive? How do we know?

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Joseph Kony is presumed alive by all international actors in the region. There is little to no doubt on that fact. On 2 December 2011 an abductee escaped into a town in the Central African Republic and, according to the United Nations, the boy reported that Joseph Kony was alive in southeastern CAR and was aware of the US military deployment in the region. This corroborates with information received from the United Nations and Invisible Children’s partners in the region.

Additionally, in August 2011 one of Joseph Kony’s “wives” escaped from the LRA. When asked in February 2012, she said that she saw Joseph Kony “every day.”

What does charity navigator say about invisible children?

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Charity Navigator is a third-party organization that assigns numerical scores to the work and effectiveness of nonprofit organizations. They give Invisible Children four out of four stars.

In a lengthy article, Charity Navigator affirms the financial health of Invisible Children:

“We give the charity 4 out of a possible 4 stars for its Financial Health. It spends upwards of 80% of its budget on its programs and services. As such, Invisible Children is actually outperforming most charities in our database in terms of how it allocates its expenses….Some have quickly looked at our rating for Invisible Children and mistakenly concluded that the charity did not complete an annual audit. That is not true. What we report is that the charity’s audited financials were prepared by an independent accountant, but that it did not have an audit oversight committee.”

The stats used by the KONY 2012 film and campaign:

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