Ugandans criticise Kony campaign

2012-03-10 09:24

Kampala - The wildly successful viral video campaign to raise global awareness of a brutal Central Africa rebel leader is attracting criticism from Ugandans, some who said on Friday that the 30-minute video misrepresents the complicated history of Africa's longest-running conflict.

The campaign by the advocacy group Invisible Children to make militia leader Joseph Kony a household name has received enormous attention on YouTube and other internet sites this week.

But critics here said the video glosses over a complicated history that made it possible for Kony to rise to the notoriety he has today.

They also lamented that the video does not inform viewers that Kony originally was waging war against Uganda's army, whose human rights record has been condemned as brutal by independent observers.

"There is no historical context. It's more like a fashion thing," said Timothy Kalyegira, a well-known social critic in Uganda who once published a newsletter called The Uganda Record.

Ugandan govt accused of genocide

Kony's Lord's Resistance Army began its attacks in Uganda in the 1980s, when Kony sought to overthrow the government. Since being pushed out of Uganda several years ago, the LRA has terrorised villages in Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan. The group takes young women into sexual slavery and forces children to commit heinous attacks.

In the years when Kony's men roamed northern Uganda, the Ugandan government was often accused of failing to do enough to capture or kill Kony, with some government investigations showing that army officers profiteered from a protracted war.

Olara Otunnu, a former UN diplomat who worked on children and armed conflict, has long accused the Ugandan government of committing genocide in northern Uganda as it pursued Kony.

Invisible Children said in a statement posted on its website that it does not defend any of the human rights abuses committed by the Ugandan government.

But it said: "The only feasible and proper way to stop Kony and protect the civilians he targets is to co-ordinate efforts with regional governments."

A ‘narrow perspective’

Ogenga Latigo, a politician from northern Uganda who previously led the opposition in Uganda's Parliament, said Invisible Children's perspective was too narrow to be allowed to define the popular understanding of an insurgency that displaced millions and in which thousands were killed or abducted.

"Theirs is a narrow perspective," he said of Invisible Children's work. "They just want the war to end so that children can go back home. That's all."

Latigo said that the Ugandan government, by failing to deploy enough soldiers to prevent the LRA from abducting children over the years, had been partly responsible for the rebel group's success as a recruiter of children.

"Our position was clear. We told the government, 'There are not enough soldiers'," he said.

A positive viewpoint

Invisible Children said that in its quest to garner wide support of a complicated issue, it tried to explain the conflict in an easily understandable format. It said that many nuances of a 26-year conflict are admittedly lost or overlooked in a half-hour film.

Not everyone is critical of Invisible Children's campaign. Maria Burnett, a researcher on Uganda for Human Rights Watch, said the video has helped draw attention to an issue the rights group has long been working on.

"We hope it will be helpful," she said. "What it leads to remains to be seen, but the goal to bring pressure on key leaders, to protect civilians and to apprehend LRA leadership is important, absolutely."

Burnett added that while the LRA issue is important, Uganda's military also needs to be accountable and professional - "and there's still a long way to go in that regard".

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, where Kony is wanted for war crimes, told AP he thinks the attention Invisible Children has raised is "incredible, exactly what we need".

Kony is now thought to be hiding in the Central African Republic, where he fled before an aerial assault on his forested base in Congo in 2008. Ugandan officials say the LRA - with some 200 core fighters at most - is weakened and is merely trying to survive.

Invisible Children's new campaign comes five months after President Barack Obama sent 100 US forces to help regional governments eliminate Kony and his lieutenants.

American troops are now stationed in Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Congo, and South Sudan, countries where Kony's men operate.

Other motives for campaign?

Ugandan officials say that, with the help of US troops, the hunt for LRA leaders has intensified in recent months.

Asked what the chances were of eliminating the LRA, Rear Admiral Brian L Losey, the top US special operations commander for Africa, told journalists last month: "I don't see failure."

For some Ugandans, the timing of Invisible Children's campaign is suspicious. Nicholas Sengoba, a political analyst, said there was something "sinister" about Invisible Children's campaign.

"The issue has been around for ages," he said. "We have to ask ourselves why suddenly there is this uproar. I believe that these people have other motives that they are not putting out in the open."

  • Anthony - 2012-03-10 09:46

    "Nicholas Sengoba, a political analyst, said there was something "sinister" about Invisible Children's campaign." Rubbish !! Nothing sinister about this. Just about anyone, who has seen this video, will accept that these CRIMINAL THUGS, have to be removed, dead or alive !! This most certainly is ( no longer ) a political resistance force, but a bunch of most cruel gangsters. One reckons 30 000 kids, as young as 12 years old , have been kidnapped, the boys being "trained" as child soldiers, and the girls used as sex slaves. Many of these kids are told to murder they own parents, so they would never be able to go home again. Many of these kids are mutilated beyond believe, when they try to escape!! Only a most SINISTER person, would find an excuse, not to act !!!!!

      Rob - 2012-03-10 09:54

      I agree, this is not about invisible children, their salaries or the way they conduct their marketing campaign. This is a no brainer... Joesph Kony must be brought to justice to answer for his crimes. That's the objective.

      Jack - 2012-03-10 10:29

      Bla, bla, bla....always the sames stories...i'm willing to bet all that i own against the fact that Uganda is and will always be a failed state. The only hope is the Western World.

  • Bob - 2012-03-10 09:48

    I irony and beliefs of the uninitiated populace…!

  • gbbfg - 2012-03-10 10:04

    I don't get it. Who cares about the "complicated history"? Someone is wanting to stop children from being killed. How can this possibly be a bad thing? "The issue has been around for ages," he said. "We have to ask ourselves why suddenly there is this uproar. I believe that these people have other motives that they are not putting out in the open." Yes the issue has been around for ages. Nobody knew about it. Now they do, thanks to a man who visited and did something. So there must be some sinister motive? Wtf? I do begin to wonder if Africa can be helped at all. I'm pretty sure there has been major wrongdoing on all sides involved, but this is about stopping child armies. Anyone who sees that as a bad thing needs his head examined.

      Wilma Crous - 2012-03-10 11:09

      Agree gbbfg!!

      Mark - 2012-03-10 13:04

      I agree that Kony must be brought to book, but one must always take into account the complicated history when attempting to intervene in foreign affairs (especially in the Great Lakes Region) Intervention based on ignorance will end in ignominy, ie American intervention in Somalia in the early 1990's. It was well-meaning, but mis-directed because they simply didn't understand the situation

  • Tyrone - 2012-03-10 10:06

    This video is propoganda, but it is aimed in the right direction. If this video works and Kony is brought to justice, just imagine what the other tyrents of the world will be thinking. The power of social media is greater than one man or one army. It unites everyone in one cause that would normally never know what is happening. Bring Kony to justice and then lets get the rest of them!!!

      Mildly_Amused - 2012-03-14 16:10

      Absolutely, the whole point of the video is to rally support from the masses and spread awareness - not to actually solve the problem but to help towards solving the problem. The video is short and it is emotive. Frankly, most of us who watched the video wouldn't even have bothered watching it if it was 3 hours long... Hopefully though the 30 min video affected some in such a way that they did their own little bit of research on the situation and looked for ways in which they could help - even if it's not necessarily through supporting the project.

  • Paul - 2012-03-10 10:07

    Politicians ... what pricks, the campaign is trying to rescue innocent children, yet whist you do nothing, you suspect sinister motives!

      gbbfg - 2012-03-10 10:44

      Actually now I think about it, I can only think of one reason for criticizing the campaign. Sinister motives.

      Mark - 2012-03-10 13:14

      It's not so simple. While it certainly may be the case that the politicians quoted above have sinister motives of their own, it is also probably fair to say that the last 60 years of African history have shown that foreign aid and intervention have, on balance, left the recipients thereof worse-off than they were. (Read 'Dead-Aid' by Dambiso Moyo)...even if foreign attempts to bring Kony to justice were to be successful, there are always string attached by the 'helpers'.

  • Karmah - 2012-03-10 10:35

    So do they want help or not? Sheesh

  • takurian - 2012-03-10 10:37

    Come on Ugandians. There is no oil or diamonds in Uganda. Let the good people stop the evil that you failed to stop.

      joshua.zake - 2012-03-10 12:55

      there actually is oil in uganda, after nigeria the largest deposits...

      Mark - 2012-03-10 13:08

      Alas, you are wrong. There are both. Large oil reserves were discoverd in Uganda in 2010.

      phillsteyn - 2012-03-10 23:13

      There is oil... Da da duuuuuuum! Suddenly sinister motives seem more likely...

  • Mzwandile - 2012-03-10 10:56

    Well done Invisible Children for bring this to the attention of the world. This is an emotional video to watch and I can't stop thingink what our leaders in that region first, in africa second and the world third are thinking when they see this and do nothing. If I was a leader in this continent I would be ashame of myself. I know its emotions that are talking to me now but one thing I am sure of is when defenceless people especially children and women are at such a risk emotions must dictate that an action be taken and we deal with the consequences later. During the Mbeki regime there was such a high campaign led by DA supported by the media and other social commentators for SA to intervene in Zimbabwe (rightfully soo). I hope all caring South African will use the same spirit to force our government not only to condemn Joseph Kony but to deploy our resources to ensure that he is captured dead or alive.

  • Wilma Crous - 2012-03-10 11:00

    I doubt that this is only happening in Uganda......but if they stop Kony, then one can move on to the next target! To stop Kony seems far easier than stopping crime in SA.... Let's learn from this mission.

  • Linda.G.Beatty - 2012-03-10 11:00

    Whatever the details. The campaign is a huge success and has spurred action which would never have been without it. Bravo I say. With intent we can all make a difference. Mostly though, we leave these issues to someone else.

  • Johan Grobbelaar - 2012-03-10 11:01

    Its 200 guys with machetes... U seriously wanna tell me the ugandan army can't deal with it? 1 koevoet is all we need. Mr Ed, u gonna delete my comment again?

      Shayne Ronald Barker - 2012-03-10 11:30

      Read the previous articles, they not just a bunch of machette wielding bandits! They reportedly have recoiless rifles, rpg's etc including good comms equipment such as satellite phones. That combined with the difficulty of the terrain makes for a rather large challenge. All Bin Laden had was an AK 47 and he hid in a desert/come mountain. Took them 10 years to find and kill him. Sometimes its not just a matter of 'my gun is bigger than yours'

      Mark - 2012-03-10 13:18

      It's not so simple. The national borders in that area are fluid. Kony is able to move between several countries at will (over an area the size of Europe). The Ugandan army can't track him across the borders without triggering an international incident. Kony can also retreat into countries and areas that are not friendly to the Ugandan army (like Eastern DRC where the Hutu militia groups would probably gladly fight the Ugandans!)

      Mark - 2012-03-10 13:32

      Furthermore, the UN high commission for refugees estimates that the LRA currently only number about 200 and may well collapse altogether in the near future. Given that a couple of decades ago they were a veritable army, I'd say the Ugandan military has done fairly well (under the cirumstances mentioned in my above post).

  • Wilma Crous - 2012-03-10 11:04

    The movie Machine Gun Priest, with Gerard Butler, was about these kids This movie was an eye opener for me. Based on a true story. Well worth watching.

  • Wilma Crous - 2012-03-10 11:13

    Wish people could stand together like this to stop crime in SA.

  • Nicholas - 2012-03-10 11:18

    The history of why Kony became who he is, is totally irrelevant! It is what he has done over the last 15 or so years and what he continues to do today that is relevant. He needs to be wiped out. Africa's problem is that they are always harping on about the past at the expense of today and the future. Kony's past is a complete red herring.

  • Craig - 2012-03-10 11:55

    Perhaps commentators could read the two articles on the Daily Maverick site today for a more comprehensive take on this film. Perhaps having read the two opinion pieces there, some commentators might like to retract their comments here? It always help to know at least a little of what you are talking about before making knee-jerk statements without all the available information.

      Mark - 2012-03-10 13:32

      Indeed. The Simon Allison article is particularly informative

  • Cliff - 2012-03-10 11:59

    I salute people who try and make a difference. This d ood did it. I hope they catch the bastard quickly!!

  • Jacqui - 2012-03-10 12:11

    How could paying attention to something as vile as this be sinister?. Someone needs his head examined. Africa,oh Africa, you don't deserve what is living on your soil.

  • Ahmed - 2012-03-10 12:25

    You see my dear friends God Almighty gave the control of the entire african continent to the devil that is why there is and will never be peace as these devil agents have a task to perform and that is to kill and murder and line their pockets for sure their abode will be hell in the hereafter.There will be no mercy in God's court.

  • zaakiro - 2012-03-10 12:58

    This is another plain example of American hypocrisy, they are engineering a reason to infiltrate Uganada like they do and did in many regions around the world. Bin Laden (a known ex-CIA agent) destroyed the twin towers, so attack Afghanistan. Saddam holding weapons of mass destruction which was never found, so attack Iraq who have massive reserves of OIL. Qaddafi, "a man who killed his own people", so they attack Libya who have massive reserves of OIL... Syria, Bahrain, Iran...all countries with immense wealth and natural resources. So you ask why Uganda, Uganda is amongst the wealthiest countries in terms if natural gasses and un-tapped crude oil, they also have minerals such as copper and cobalt which is in high demand. According to a journalist based in Uganada, Kony left the country almost six years ago, soo why NOW ?? Why are we hearing about all of this now? We watch a video of people been killed, an i don't for a single second agree with innocent lives been taken, simply because we have no right to take a life that we didn't give. But this campaign is just another example of American influence when it's not required. But as usual we are brainwashed into believing anything, tomorrow when the US & Nato decide to attack Central African countries, don't look around for reasons, they always provide them before hand. Many will hate the comment, some will agree, the intelligent ones..

      Eric Schollar - 2012-03-10 22:53

      Have you ever considered visiting planet Earth?

      phillsteyn - 2012-03-10 23:32

      I agree with your view. It seems that America keeps "helping" countries that are rich in natural resources (oil especially) and the bad thing is we can't stop them from being resource-hungry, because they are solving a problem (but creating various others). It's a fact that Kony needs to be stop, but not only in Uganda. It seems as if America is just focussing on Uganda and not on the neighbouring countries as well. America seems to be the cause, or just intensifies, of many problems in our world. Because they are dealing with an emotional situation involving small children, people are willing to ignore the possibility of other motives. They are blinded by kindness. We need sceptics! I guess people are going to hate this reply, but luckily we're allowed to let our opinions be known.

      Mildly_Amused - 2012-03-14 16:17

      So are you saying that oil is worth more than human lives? I would happily give up all the oil in the world in exchange for the safety of the country's children. This is why people don't bother trying to make a difference. Something like this can happen so easily in our country. And when people try to help, we're going to say what? "They just want our land"? Go back to complaining about your "problems" like how your android battery life sucks and leave the humanitarian stuff to humanitarians.

  • Yvette - 2012-03-10 13:10

    First things first, catch the kingpin and then hold Ugandan officials accountable for allowing these atrocities against children too!! Bleh Uganda Bleh!!!!!

  • Mathopa Coco Kgobe - 2012-03-10 13:58

    don't forget mugabe ......

  • Trudy - 2012-03-10 14:39

    To suggest Invisible Children's motives appear sinister while children noses and lips are being hacked off is indicative of the African mindset. It really is time to stop this barbarism irrespective of historical issues and sensitivities.

  • Mariké Krüger - 2012-03-10 14:58

    Dear journalist \r\nPlease get your facts straight!!!!!\r\n5years Ago invisible children made a movie explaining the truth about Joseph Kony when everything started, why he was rebelling against ect. This movie is only one of their many updates they give and also launching their new campaign!! But off course \r\nSouth African journalist will find something to be negative about!!! All other news medias support the cause and compaign but now you have to waiste your freedom of speech on negativity!! You know what... Go buy your self anti depressents

  • Tershia - 2012-03-10 18:23

    Defending the indefensible! Uganda has had long enough to stop this atrocity; and failed. Good for those who are stepping in.

  • r.mashigo - 2012-03-12 12:35

    Nevertheless, he's still a dictator and ruining the lives of many. So he gotta go

  • Previn - 2012-03-14 07:03

    One does not simply destabilize a Ugandan Warlord by liking a status.

      Mildly_Amused - 2012-03-14 16:21

      One does not simply try to be funny by making a meme out of situation like this :P

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