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Invisible Children falsely lobbied Congress law on LRA crackdown

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I have travelled frequently to Uganda since 1998.  In 2007 I had the privilege of travelling extensively through the northern part of Uganda and visited the town of Gulu and several Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.
I am an independent global citizen that does not represent any charity, church, NGO, or government.  I have partnered with my Ugandan friends to help the underprivileged and vulnerable people in their villages and communities.

I appreciate the work that that many charities and non-governmental organisations are doing to raise awareness and advocate peace in the northern part of Uganda.  Through the efforts of many of these people, the world and its leaders are aware of the horrible 21-year war in the northern part of Uganda, The Lord’s Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. 

Recently there has been increased focus on issues in the northern part of Uganda thanks to the grassroots efforts of Invisible Children. The organisation has utilised its marketing prowess and creativity to capture the hearts and minds of thousands of students and young adults.  Invisible Children and its supporters have worked tirelessly to help create and lobby the recently passed “LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act”. 

You may think that I would welcome the passage of this bill as a beacon of hope for my friends in northern Uganda. I am not supporter of this bill. The bill opens the door for the American military to legally militarise Uganda in the name of humanitarian efforts.  

It legitimises the mission of AFRICOM on the continent and gives military forces a home base in Africa to continue the “global battle on terrorism,” combat the growing presence of China, and defend American interests regarding natural resources.
To gain support for this bill, Invisible Children propagated misinformation to its idealistic followers. The battle cry to pass this bill was “to end the longest running war in Africa”.  

They conveniently combined multiple regional conflicts into one lump statement. The region of northern Uganda has been free of LRA rebel activity for over five years now.  There is now peace and rebuilding going on. When I confronted the administration of Invisible Children about this information, they stated in an email:

“I agree with you that leading people to believe that the war is still happening in Uganda is not ethically right. It’s something we’ve been addressing internally, focusing on getting all staff and supporters on the same page in regards to the language they use in their communications.”

I have been aware of Invisible Children since its inception. I admire their ability to mobilise passionate people and raise awareness about injustices in the world.  I have often disagreed with their strategies but chose to focus on the work of my Ugandan friends inside Uganda. The recent passage of the “LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act” has forced me to speak up. 

I believe that Invisible Children as a tax-exempt  organisation has violated provisions of the US Internal Revenue Service when it comes to political activism and lobbying activity. The organisation has been deeply involved with the recent passage of the “LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act”. 

Their website proclaims “We Did It!” and is full of information about the organisation’s direct involvement in Congressional legislation. They have also posted many videos on YouTube proclaiming their personal mission to have Joseph Kony arrested:  www.InvisibleChildren.com,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qn8D3zjVDA0

In an email from Andrew Morgan, Invisible Children’s Communications Officer in Uganda, he stated:

“We needed the bill to pass (and spent donor money trying to ensure that it did) because Joseph Kony’s capture is crucial to the recovery of northern Uganda.”

Federal law prohibits political lobbying and activity by organizations that have a tax-exempt 501(c)3 status. Invisible Children, Inc. should be audited by the IRS or voluntarily surrender their tax-exempt status. 
I am not anti-Invisible Children. I am not pro-LRA. I am pro-truth. Propaganda and misinformation does not help develop solutions to global challenges. It only exacerbates the problems. Invisible Children needs to respect the law that they so valiantly expect others to follow.

The US Internal Revenue Service Rules 501(c)3 state: “In general, no organisation may qualify for section 501(c)(3) status if a substantial part of its activities is attempting to influence legislation (commonly known as lobbying). A 501(c)(3) organisation may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks loss of tax-exempt status.
Legislation includes action by Congress, any state legislature, any local council, or similar governing body, with respect to acts, bills, resolutions, or similar items (such as legislative confirmation of appointive office), or by the public in referendum, ballot initiative, constitutional amendment, or similar procedure.  It does not include actions by executive, judicial, or administrative bodies.
An organisation will be regarded as attempting to influence legislation if it contacts, or urges the public to contact, members or employees of a legislative body for the purpose of proposing, supporting, or opposing legislation, or if the organization advocates the adoption or rejection of legislation.
Organisations may, however, involve themselves in issues of public policy without the activity being considered as lobbying. For example, organisations may conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner without jeopardising their tax-exempt status.”

The author is an American who has made frequent trips to Uganda. In Acholi he was given the adoptive name Otim Michael


Comments (35)Add Comment
What is your problem Mr Otim?
written by Mukiibi Mugerwa (from Luweero), September 30, 2010
You seem too hung up about the means and psudo legalities but i thought you should be focused on the fact that a bigger coalision is building agains the LRA. Kony might be out of Uganda but he is still murdering Children in Africa!. I am Ugandan but each time Kony kills children in Congo he is killing my little brothers; when he rapes children in Sudan he is raping my kid sisters; when he burns villages in Central African Republic he is destroying my communities!. Anything and Everything must be done by Everybody to stop Kony. Dont bring in the US/China conspiracy theories. For us it is the lives of our people that are being taken away by Kony.
Truth and Justice
written by Michael Kirkpatrick, September 30, 2010
I have not implied that justice be ignored with this article. Joseph Kony and any perpetrators of atrocities and killings absolutely should be held accountable and justice must be served. That also includes Ugandan government officials and the UDPF. This article is meant to bring attention to the fact that some American charities are profiting from the suffering and blood of the victims. They collect millions in American donations that never reach the communities that they claim to help.

As a United States taxpayer, I have the right to question unethical activities of American charities that avoid paying taxes because they have broken laws in the United States. No individual, organization, or government should be above the law of their land.
invisible children and congress law
written by j busingye, September 30, 2010
Mr Otim, I dont clearly appreciate your points against Invisible children if you have any concern for the victims of kony's LRA. If the issue is them not paying tax let them pay tax. Else, the funds they receive do not need to be handed to the victims if they could be put to use in other more effective ways as legislating for effective action against the LRA.
The U.S. should not further militarize Africa
written by Ann Garrison, September 30, 2010
I have recently questioned our California Senator Barbara Boxer's vote and lobbying efforts on behalf of the LRA Disarmament Act and the further militarization of Africa: http://sfbayview.com/2010/barb...f-africa/. And here is the Africa Faith and Justice Network's report, again, on the Ugandan religious leaders calling for ONLY non-violent implementation of the act: http://goo.gl/i6D3.
Truth and Justice
written by Michael Kirkpatrick, September 30, 2010
I'm not advocating that any of the donated money be handed over directly to the victims. The money needs to be utilized in programs and development initiatives that the organization is already claiming to be doing. They are exploiting the situation in Uganda for their own financial benefit.

I want Joseph Kony and the enemies of peace brought to justice immediately.

I've done my part in helping children and communities in Uganda as a concerned global citizen. My involvement has been entirely personal and voluntary. I partner with my Ugandan friends who are stakeholders in the future of their country.
...
written by Michael Kirkpatrick, September 30, 2010
If people believe that the United States government and organizations like Invisible Children and Resolve Uganda have the interests of Ugandans as their primary motives, then they are being very naive. They are serving their own interests which involve political and economic agendas.

"Toxic Mix: Agenda Driven Philanthropy, Secrecy, United States Foreign Policy, and African Tyranny "
http://www.blackstarnews.com/n...09-15.html
Michael Kirkpatrick Thanks For You Article
written by Twakoowa, September 30, 2010
We've been telling people about this Invisible Children's group and the wrong they are doing, how selfish they are and have been for along time, and no one was listening. Maybe now that you have come out to speak of it, some of these guys might listen. I have written an article about it too, and it feels very good to read the truth you write. Thank goodness, the world still have well meaning people like you. Now let's see if there is any Northern Ugandan who cares for the facts. You know, despite what you might have heard, ever area in Uganda practically minds it's own business. Only the Central region which is under occupation from the gang of the rest of them, has other people putting their noises in its business.
Michael Kirkpatrick Thanks For You Article 2
written by Twakoowa, September 30, 2010
So only the Northern Ugandans can really do anyhting about that problem right there. But I guess now that the war is over, they will tell you the Invisible Children are even more invisible now that they ceased to be so. That's Uganda for you, a failed State in every sense of the word! Which is why vultures are all over the place, devouring whatever they can put their hands on, while claiming they are helping the ordinary folks. But thanks for bringing this to light, and from an America citizen's point of view.
The truth about your article and the LRA
written by Grace Komakech, September 30, 2010
Micheal,

You are not thinking straight in you mind. You just want to be famous. I am a Ugandan who has been following what Kony has been doing. I am glad in your article you mentioned that you just visited Acholi land that is why you think military option is bad. I don't know the group Invisible Children very well but after few calls to the North so far they have been the savior of Acholi land when I called some few leaders. Don't be confused by few Ugandans who have used this war to accumulate wealth and gained sympathy in the western world.

You are Kony must be a arm dealer
written by Grace Komakech, September 30, 2010
Many Ugandans in the Diaspora especially Acholis supported Kony but now that Kony is not in the North you will find they are upset if Kony is captured. If you support Kony you must be a grand son to Hitler. You need an investigation because you might have supported Kony by giving them guns. If you saw the atrocities Kony committed then you cannot stop the US support or talk about tax evasion. If Sudan is putting a lot of money to arm the arrow boys now because of the suffering from the LRA then why not get the guns and a kill this Hitler of Africa.
For us Ugandans we don't agree with you because you want to gain fame.
Thank you, Michael
written by Dan Fahey, October 01, 2010
Michael,
Last year while teaching at Berkeley, several freshman students in my class wanted to write papers about "the war in Northern Uganda", because they were involved with Invisible Children in high school. They were surprised when I told them the LRA have been out of northern Uganda for several years--they bought the propaganda that the war was still going on. Let's face it: Invisible Children is trying to keep the money rolling in through deception and false claims. In this sense, they are like Save Darfur and the Enough project. They play upon the guilt and ignorance of people in the US and trumpet hollow US legislation that may end up doing more harm than good in Uganda and other parts of Africa. Thank you for your article.
Dan
Correcting the record
written by Michael Poffenberger, October 01, 2010
As a staff member from another non-profit organization that was involved in securing the passage of the bill, I appreciate the debate on these issues but wish to correct some misstatements in the article.

First, it is not at all against U.S. law for charities to engage in lobbying activities. The IRS rule is that only an "insubstantial portion" of a non-profit's activities may involve legislative lobbying, a category understood to be 20% or less. Both Invisible Children and our organization, Resolve, provide full transparency in our reporting to the federal government about how we spend our money to ensure we are compliant with all laws governing charitable activity. The federal guidelines are on the IRS website here: http://www.irs.gov/charities/a...92,00.html
On the bill
written by Michael Poffenberger, October 01, 2010
On the bill, people of good will have many different opinions about how it should be implemented. However, it is important to note that the bill itself was supported by a broad coalition of human rights, humanitarian, and other organizations in the US and each of the countries affected by this crisis. E.g., see: http://www.theresolve.org/posts/1121311797 for text of a statement signed by 49 groups upon the bill's passage. Much of Kirkpatrick's criticism is founded on exaggerated claims about the bill's purpose and content. Our own report with recommendations for how Obama should implement the Act, based on several months of field research in Uganda, Sudan, DR Congo, and Central African Republic, is here: http://www.theresolve.org/posts/1213050852
Truth and Justice
written by Michael Kirkpatrick, October 01, 2010
I have not been given the impression that the LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery bill has the support of a broad base of Ugandans, particularly Acholi. Most people in Uganda are unaware of this obscure American legislation that is all about their country. The passage of this bill didn't even get coverage by the Ugandan media. The Ugandans that have been working tirelessly over the years to bring peace and reconciliation to the region have expressed concern with the bill. There are other means to support Ugandans and the other innocent victims of conflicts. The passage of a United States law that imposes actions in a foreign country that most of the indigenous population is unaware of is not a constructive approach.
Further Militarization, When will there be Justice?
written by kathy smith, October 05, 2010
I think Mr Kirkpatrick's (Otim's) opinion piece does have merit in that the people who have been trying for such a very long time to make peace, the Acholi peace leaders indigenous effort were OPPOSED to this bill. They saw the emphasis on the military here within it. They also come from the effected part of Uganda, This bill lays the framework for the budget item which did include more money for militarization, and yes, some monies for nonprofits operating in Uganda, which would include Invisible Children's work among others.
It is easy to lay a simple story line on people and forget that "capturing" Kony and mesmerize people with a brilliant movie making enterprise. If there was a will, I wonder if Kony would have been "captured" by now?
Hmmm.
written by Someone who cares, October 06, 2010
Wow, MK. Those are some nice, sweeping statements w/ no evidence to back them. Nice! I'd love some concrete evidence to back these statements: 1) "Most people in Uganda are unaware of this obscure US legislation that is all about their country." 2) "The passage of a U.S. law that imposes actions in a foreign country that most of the indigenous population is unaware of is not a constructive approach." Lastly, you address this law as if it's about Uganda alone. "LRA Disarmament" entails a crisis with 3 other nations. I'm pretty sure communities in those countries have pleaded for help from the world to stop the LRA. Here's some evidence: http://pulitzercenter.org/proj...ral-africa or this: http://www.globalissues.org/news/2010/05/25/5741
You mustn't know much about the organization.
written by Wade Leslie, October 11, 2010
Most of the money raised by Invisible Children go towards a program they have developed called schools for schools. This program is to help rebuild schools in Northern Uganda which were once some of the best schools in their country. So before you assume that they are hoarding the money for themselves I ask you to please do research the topic before you come up with these assumptions.
...
written by Wade Leslie, October 11, 2010
They do however still talk about the war. They talk about the long term effects that the war has had on Northern Uganda. They talk about how the schools that were once some of the best schools are barely functioning now. They also let them know the stories of the children who attend these schools that will be helped from Schools for Schools. I'm sure you know since you have been there that most children have been directly affected by the war.
Both Invisible Children, Resolve Uganda are bunch trailblazers
written by Moses Okello, October 20, 2010
Both Invisible Children and Resolve Uganda have previously been campaigning keenly against the Joseph Kony’s Lord Resistance (LRA) but have propagated the Museveni propaganda. If these two organisations were really interested in helping the population in northern, they shouldn’t be blocking people who try to question their activities.
...
written by Moses Okello, October 20, 2010

I have tried to speak Lisa Dougan of Resolve Uganda, but she totally out of touch about the situation on the ground. When ask her, why they don’t mention about the activities of the UPDF, she can hardly give an answer. She is so protective about the activities of Resolve Uganda. The world and Ugandans in particular should treat these two organisations as self-seekers with other agendas but not the interest of Ugandans.
...
written by Moses Okello, October 20, 2010
The last time I spoke to Lisa, on July 8, she ended the conversation pre-mature when I put it to her, why they never mentioned about the well documented atrocities committed by the UPDF both in northern Uganda and DR Congo, yet they claim to be having people providing information from the ground. The truth is, these bunch trailblazers that want to benefit from the plight of Africans.
It Takes MoreThan Good Intentions
written by Michael Kirkpatrick, October 22, 2010
It would be wonderful for more Ugandans, especially Acholi, to contribute thier opinions and experiences on this subject. Most Americans are quick to speak and slow to listen. We need to hear the voices of those who are stakeholders in the northern part of Uganda. Thank you Moses.

"Toxic Mix: Agenda Driven Philanthropy, Secrecy, United States Foreign Policy, and African Tyranny "
http://www.blackstarnews.com/n...09-15.html
It Takes MoreThan Good Intentions
written by Michael Kirkpatrick, October 22, 2010
It would be wonderful for more Ugandans, especially Acholi, to contribute thier opinions and experiences on this subject. Most Americans are quick to speak and slow to listen. We need to hear the voices of those who are stakeholders in the northern part of Uganda. Thank you Moses.

"Toxic Mix: Agenda Driven Philanthropy, Secrecy, United States Foreign Policy, and African Tyranny "
http://www.blackstarnews.com/n...09-15.html
Invisible Children are too political!
written by Monique Wyatt, October 25, 2010
I visited the Invisible Children's office in Gulu last week. The communication Manager, told me it was them (the Invisible Children) who chased Kony out of Uganda and that it was them who have managed to send people back from IDP camps into their villages.

When I pointed to the young girl that such statement was an insult to the Acholi people , local leaders and other agency that have been involved in the region for many years. She replied that, the LRA were still kidnapping children and raping women. I told her that LRA/Kony had not been in the country for many years now and have no intention of coming back.

Are the Invisible Children following the LRA/Kony?
written by Monique Wyatt, October 25, 2010
I was told by the communication manager at the Invisible Office in Gulu that they have set up an office in the Congo. Wow!!! These American kids, so I asked "Are you following Kony?" well without any shame, she told me that LRA/Kony was still raping, kidnapping and murdering people. I asked her, "do you know how many rebels groups are in the Congo?" Clueless! Repeating exactly what she has been brainwashed to say

Now that the Invisible Children have opened an office in the Congo, should we believe that they are the one hunting LRA/Kony down? What absolutely disgusting ways for a Christian Organisation to behave
Invisible Children and Resolve Uganda- too defensive!!!
written by Monique Wyatt, October 25, 2010
I see that Michael Poffenberger is referring to Otims as " Exaggerated claims" Mr Poffenberger, if you can recall, I had some dialogue with you a while back and on telling you and the Invisible Children that I come from the region and I am in fact Acholi by tribe. You did not want any more dialogue with me and I was blocked by the Invisible children.

How can you claim to solve Acholi's problems with you do not want to engage with the so people whom you are claimed to be helping.
broad generalizations indeed
written by a concerned person, November 22, 2010
The financial distribution at for Invisible Children is available at their website. Their endeavors DO funnel an incredible amount of money directly to the services they are helping to provide (rebuilding schools, organic farms and other work for the people they help, setting up communication towers for remote villages in the Congo, etcetera). They work directly with people in Uganda to find out what THEY want, and it is the people of the countries they are helping that decide what they need and how we can help them with their needs. They employ people in Africa to do the work on the ground, that the people of Africa have requested. It is not about Americans attempting to do things their way, and then getting rich off their own desires.
peace versus war
written by a concerned person, November 22, 2010
As a pacifist, I am not eager to see more warfare, but Peace Talks have not worked with Joseph Kony. I applaud Resolve Uganda for their efforts to see this done in the most non-violent way possible, to free the children who are being forced to fight Joseph Kony's war (which we know is NOT in Uganda anymore, even though it has left Uganda with gaping wounds).
peace versus war
written by a concerned person, November 22, 2010
As a pacifist, I am not eager to see more warfare, but Peace Talks have not worked with Joseph Kony. I applaud Resolve Uganda for their efforts to see this done in the most non-violent way possible, to free the children who are being forced to fight Joseph Kony's war (which we know is NOT in Uganda anymore, even though it has left Uganda with gaping wounds).
what exactly is your problem Mr.Otim?
written by Francis Lubuulwa, November 25, 2010
Mr.Otim,

I am quite shocked by what you have written in this article. I am a Ugandan and every time I see or read about what happened or what is happening in northern Uganda, my heart bleeds. Recently, a representative from Invisible children came and spoke at my university. I applaud their efforts as a Ugandan. For you to write all this misleading information about how the war ended 5 years is not acceptable in my opinion. You are not the only American who has been to Uganda. Thank you for going over there, but if you are only going for the wrong reasons, I suggest that you save your money and stay in your country.
The truth will set you all free
written by Monique, December 09, 2010
I see that some are not revealing their true identity, should I take that the writer work for the Invisible Children or have some very close association with the organisation?

There are many issues that the Invisible Children have failed to rebutt- The fact that they were bought by Salim Saleh (Museveni's brother) for them to change their first film to just implicate the LRA/Kony for crimes committed against the Acholi people. This is why the Invisible Children have continued to campaigned relentlessly against Kony- they were paid money by the Ugandan Government.

Secondly, it's a well known facts that the Invisible Children have association/ working for the CIA- again, they have never denied these well known allegations.

The truth will set you all free! part2
written by Monique, December 09, 2010
Over blown out claims that they, the Invisible Children who were/are responsible for many of the changes which has taken place in northern Uganda- people leaving the Concentration Camps, KONY leaving northern Uganda... blah blah blah.....

The claims that they are paying school fees to many Acholi children- all these children are relatives, in-laws or friends of the people working for the Invisible Children. This is pure nepotism not that these scholarships are given on merits.

I was told by one top official from Gulu, how they were disappointed by the Invisible Children and they will be implementing their policies to get such organisations out of their territory. Such implementations will be welcomed by many people in northern Uganda.
Using war for peace?
written by Diandra Douglas, June 29, 2011
It is a rather sweeping generalization to say that Invisble Children supporters were mislead as to the purpose of, or actions permitted by the bill, considering it was on IC's website. The military action clause has been a topic of contention for many IC chapters. Assuming that we are all too dim-witted to read legislation pushed by the national organization is demeaning to the intelligence of IC supporters across the globe. "LRA Disarmament" targets this terrorist organization wherever they may be located, while "Northern Uganda Recovery" acknowledges the region is largely peaceful and ready to be rebuilt. Stop arguing tax technicalities. If you think the organization should no longer receive its 501(c)(3) status, make the call.
Do you have First Hand experience?
written by Eddie Powell, March 08, 2012
It seems many comments against Invisible Children are made by people that have no experience or never been to Africa/Uganda. Governments have lied to and manipulated the truth and the public just have to accept it. At least this organisation are trying to do something to help People. If there was proof that they squander the money on fancy cars and diamonds then bring it. Don't just accuse them of massaging the truth so they can bring the military in. Unless you can speak from experience or back up your statements I must view this as an attempt to bring down an organisation that is genuine in it's attempts to help People. We should all focus on helping people rather than running down organisations that are trying.
Peace and Love Baby
...
written by bauer respect principle, November 04, 2013
At least this organisation are trying to do something to help People. If there was proof that they squander the money on fancy cars and diamonds then bring it.

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