The charity Invisible Children, most famous for releasing the wildly popular, and later wildly unpopular, viral video “Kony 2012,” is significantly reducing its operations, and a spokeswoman for the group says it will probably not exist in any form once its workers in Africa are released.
The Washington Post reports that the group, which champions children forced to work as child soldiers and sought to bring awareness to the crimes of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army, is reducing its operations for financial reasons. Communications director Noelle West told the newspaper that, in the aftermath of the Kony video, “it has become increasingly difficult to fundraise to the level necessary in order to sustain the current breadth of all of our programmatic work, both stateside and in Africa… we’ve exhausted all feasible options for raising the funds necessary for keeping our full U.S. operations going at the current capacity.”
In an official message on its website, Invisible Children founders echoed the sentiment. “Despite making incredible progress toward our mission,” they write, “it’s been difficult to fund the breadth of our work, especially over the last two years.” The message denies, however, that the group is shutting down, though its “essential operations” appear to be just that: “What you will get in 2015 is a lean, experienced team doing the hard work in the trenches on Capitol Hill and in the heart of central Africa, maintaining the critical programs that are protecting communities targeted by the LRA and helping those in captivity safely find their way home.”
At its peak, “Kony 2012” became known as “the most viral video in history”– a title since handed down to the Korean pop music video “Gangnam Style.” The video became both extremely well-known and the subject of severe backlash from many who viewed it as problematic because of the group’s mostly-white leadership and lack of detail in their information on the Lord’s Resistance Army. Invisible Children founder Jason Russell was subsequently hospitalized for what family members said was a reaction to the significant stress placed on him from the national response to the video.
Joseph Kony remains at large. There are few leads as to where he might be, though some suspect the Central African Republic, where a manhunt on such a large scale would be chaotic if not impossible. Captured Lord’s Resistance Army soldiers in June 2014 denied having seen him for years, describing him as a “myth” and a “god” that LRA soldiers revere but no longer perceive as a peer or human.