My first encounter with an NGO occurred in high school when a group of alumni came to visit the campus and raise awareness about the issue of child soldiers in Northern Uganda
. The government of Uganda is headed by a Yoweri Musseveni, a member of the National Resistance Army. A ethnic group, known as the Acholi is opposed to this new government because they are angered by the “brutal search and destroy mission” that Museveni launched on previous governmental soldiers who were in power before he took office. This attack hurt many Acholi in Northern Uganda.
Although many resistance groups were set up to oppose the government, one group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army became increasingly powerful. This group is under attack from many global organizations because it steals children from their homes and trains them to be child soldiers who help fight against the established Ugandan government. These children are often forced to comply with the organization’s demands through death threats and other torture mechanisms.
Students were told that they could help end this injustice by supporting an NGO named Invisible Children that hopes to “bring a permanent end to LRA atrocities.” through a variety of programs that help protect children in Northern Uganda and help alleviate the problems of the impoverished population.
After reading the articles about NGOs, I began to question the effectiveness of Invisible Children. After doing some quick research, I found that Invisible Children has many problems with accountability, an issue that both Michael Bond and Chandhoke discussed. As one blogger posts, “In 2011 IC [Invisible Children] spent $8,676,614 but only 32 % of this went to Africa, most of the rest of it went on staff salaries, hotels, film production and other expenses.” Since such a small amount of the funds raised reach Africa, one has to question whether they are really helping the civilians on the ground.
Furthermore, Invisible Children also provides a skewed representation of the facts. They encourage their members to support the Ugandan government while downplaying the fact that the government has been known to use child soldiers in the past. Invisible Children has also been accused of disregarding the atrocities committed by the Ugandan government over the course of the conflict. As Michael Bond notes in his article, NGO’s such as Invisible Children are prone to see situations in black and white, with the LRA playing “the bad guys” and the Ugandan government assuming the role of “the good guys.” The reality is actually more complicated than this simplified picture.
I argue that this simple black and white representation is really harmful for the people of Uganda. While it may help them escape the immediate terror and violence surrounding child soldiers, Invisible Children is forcing the citizens to side with a government that might propagate a similar type of violence among its civilians in the future. In this case, Invisible Children is acting almost like an imperialist who forces his or her own views upon a certain population. If Invisible Children truly wants to represent the people of Uganda, it would implement programs that would give power to the people and allow them to decide the best form of government.