[UPDATED: I've added a response from Invisible Children at the end of this post. The group says it "has never and will never have a relationship with Martin Ssempa."]
A video posted five years ago by a student group at Grove City College – a small evangelical school in Pennsylvania – raises questions about whether Invisible Children, the organization behind the viral juggernaut Kony 2012, has worked with notorious Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa.
Ssempa, a longtime anti-gay activist, is the chairman of the National Taskforce against Homosexuality in Uganda and a major proponent of legislation that calls for the execution of gays and lesbians who are found “guilty” of having homosexual sex. He regularly shows graphic gay porn during his presentations and seems obsessed with outrageous fetishes, typically of the scatological variety, that he claims are common practice among gay men. In addition to bashing gays, Ssempa is a major proponent of restricting access to condoms and fighting the AIDS epidemic with abstinence education – which has had disastrous consequences.
According to the video posted by Grove City students, a “team of people” from Invisible Children came to their campus in February of 2005 and showed them a video about child soldiers in Uganda. The students were energized by the film and wanted to help, but they weren’t sure how.
Then “The Vision” for their project arrived, according to the students:
Student 1: A guy named Martin Ssempa came our way, who is a Ugandan-born world leader in the AIDS activism and abstinence education. He came to Grove City College and spoke to us and gave us the plan to send this shipment of “love” over to Uganda.
Student 2: Martin Ssempa is an amazing man. He just shared a lot about his vision for healing in Africa, particularly in his country.
The students created a group called Project Okello to work on behalf of Invisible Children at Grove City. They went on to collect an impressive amount of clothing, blankets, medical supplies, and more and sent it off to Uganda through Invisible Children.
The students’ fundraising efforts were heartfelt and generous and undoubtedly helped individuals in Uganda. I applaud them for that.
But it’s extremely troubling that Ssempa and Invisible Children appeared to be coordinating their efforts. The best case scenario is that Ssempa and Invisible Children happened to cross paths at a single college and unwittingly reinforced one anothers’ efforts. A much more disturbing scenario would be if Invisible Children actually works, or has worked, directly with Ssempa.
No matter how well-intentioned one’s efforts are, there’s no place for American charities to work with someone who seeks the death penalty for gays and lesbians and would block the use of condoms to prevent AIDS. Invisible Children should clarify what relationship, if any, they have or have had with Ssempa.
On March 20, 2012, Invisible Children sent us the following response:
Invisible Children has never and will never have a relationship with Martin Ssempa. This specific video, from 2005, highlights a self-organized group of students that appears to have wanted to support Invisible Children. Invisible Children visited Grove City College, but not until 2006 – the year IC began its road tour program - and certainly not due to any connection with Martin Ssempa. Invisible Children fully supports gay rights in the United States and around the world, and has spoken out for years against acts of violence on members of the LGBT community in Uganda. Hate in any form is counterproductive to our mission.