Uganda: Why 'Kony 2012' will bring more misery to Africa

US Navy special forces. The US government has has deployed roughly 100 special operations troops to Uganda.

Kony 2012, a 30-minute documentary about the murderous cult leader Joseph Kony, has gone viral and has been watched by tens of millions of people online. But will this mobilisation of millions be subverted into yet another weapon in the hands of those who want to militarise the region further? Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal offers some information that the filmmakers -- the Invisible Children -- failed to provide that puts the complex situation in that region into context. These articles show that demands for greater military intervention will only makes matters worse for the people of the region, and especially the most vulnerable -- the children.

The downside of the Kony 2012 video

By Mahmood Mamdani

March 15, 2012 -- Pambazuka News -- Two weeks ago, Ugandan newspapers carried front-page reports from the highly respected Social Science Research Council of New York, accusing the Uganda army of atrocities against civilians in Central African Republic while on a mission to fight Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The army denied the allegations. Many in the civilian population, especially in the north, were sceptical of the denial. Like all victims, they have long and enduring memories.

The adult population recalls the brutal government-directed counterinsurgency campaign beginning 1986, and evolving into Operation North, the first big operation that people talk about as massively destructive for civilians, and creating the conditions that gave rise to the LRA of Joseph Kony and, before it, the Holy Spirit Movement of Alice Lakwena.

Young adults recall the time from the mid-1990s when most rural residents of the three Acholi districts was forcibly interned in camps – the government claimed it was to "protect' them from the LRA. But there were allegations of murder, bombing and burning of entire villages, first to force people into the camps and then to force them to stay put. By 2005, the camp population grew from a few hundred thousand to more than 1.8 million in the entire region – which included Teso and Lango – of which over a million were from the three Acholi districts.

Comprising practically the entire rural population of the three Acholi districts, they were expected to live on handouts from relief agencies. According to the uganda government’s own ministry of health, the excess mortality rate in these camps was approximately 1000 persons per week – inviting comparisons to the numbers killed by the LRA even in the worst year.

Determined to find a political solution to enduring mass misery, Uganda's parliament passed a bill in December 1999 offering amnesty to the entire leadership of the LRA provided they laid down their arms. President Yoweri Museveni refused to sign the bill.

Opposed to an amnesty, the president invited the International Criminal Court (ICC), newly formed in 2002, to charge that same LRA leadership with crimes against humanity. ICC prosecutor Luios Moreno-Ocampo grabbed the opportunity with both hands. Joseph Kony became the subject of the ICC’s first indictment.

Critics asked why the ICC was indicting only the leadership of the LRA, and not also of government forces. Ocampo said only one step at a time. In his words: "The criteria for selection of the first case was gravity. We analysed the gravity of all crimes in northern Uganda committed by the LRA and the Ugandan forces. Crimes committed by the LRA were much more numerous and of much higher gravity than alleged crimes committed by the UPDF (Uganda Peoples Defence Force). We therefore started with an investigation of the LRA." That "first case" was in 2004. There has been none other in the eight years that have followed.

As the internment of the civilian population continued into its second decade, there was another attempt at a political solution, this time involving the new government of South Sudan (GOSS). Under great pressure from both the population and from parliament, the government of Uganda agreed to enter into direct negotiations with the LRA, facilitated and mediated by GOSS. These dragged on for years, from 2006 on, but hopes soared as first the terms of the agreement, and then its finer details, were agreed on between the two sides.

Once again, the only thing standing between war and peace was an amnesty for the top leadership of the LRA, Joseph Kony and Vincent Otti in particular. In the words of Vincent Otti, the second in command: "to come out, the ICC must revoke the indictment… If Kony or Otti does not come out, no other rebel will come out." Yet again, the ICC refused, calling for a military campaign to get Kony, joined by the Uganda government which refused to provide guarantees for his safety.

Predictably, the talks broke down and the LRA withdrew, first to the Democratic Republic of Congo and then to the Central African Republic.

The government responded with further militarisation, starting with the disastrous Operation Lightning Thunder in the DRC in December, 2008, then sending thousands of Ugandan troops to the CAR, and then asking for US advisors. The ICC called on AFRICOM, the Africa Command of the US Army, to act as its implementing arm by sending more troops to capture Kony. The US under President Barack Obama responded by sending an unspecified number of advisors armed with drone aircraft – though the US insists that these drones are unarmed for now.

Now the Invisible Children charity has joined the ranks of those calling for the US to press for a military solution -- presumably supported by an army of over 70 million viewers of its video, Kony 2012. What is the LRA that it should merit the attention of an audience ranging from Hollywood celebrities to 'humanitarian interventionists" to AFRICOM to young people of the United States?

The LRA is a raggedy bunch of a few hundred at most, poorly equipped, poorly armed and poorly trained. Their ranks mainly comprise those kidnapped as children and then turned into tormentors. It is a story not very different from that of abused children who in time turn into abusive adults. In short, the LRA is no military power.

Addressing the problem called the LRA does not call for a military operation. And yet, the LRA is given as the reason why there must be a constant military mobilisation, at first in northern Uganda, and now in the entire region, why the military budget must have priority and, now, why the US must sent soldiers and weaponry, including drones, to the region. Rather than the reason for accelerated military mobilisation in the region, the LRA is the excuse for it.

The reason why the LRA continues is that its victims – the civilian population of the area – trust neither the LRA nor government forces. Sandwiched between the two, civilians need to be rescued from an ongoing military mobilisation and offered the hope of a political process.

Alas, this message has no room in the Invisible Children video that ends with a call to arms. Thus one must ask: will this mobilisation of millions be subverted into yet another weapon in the hands of those who want to militarise the region further? If so, this well-intentioned but unsuspecting army will be responsible for magnifying the very crisis to which they claim to be the solution.

The 70 million plus who have watched the Invisible Children video need to realise that the LRA – both the leaders and the children pressed into their service – are not an alien force but sons and daughters of the soil. The solution is not to eliminate them physically, but to find ways of integrating them into (Ugandan) society.

Those in the Ugandan and the US governments – and now apparently the owners of Invisible Children – must bear responsibility for regionalising the problem as the LRA and, in its tow, the Ugandan army and US advisors criss-cross the region, from Uganda to DRC to CAR. Yet, at its core the LRA remains a Ugandan problem calling for a Ugandan political solution.

[Mahmood Mamdani is professor and director of Makerere Institute of Social Research in Kampala and Herbert Lehman professor of government at Columbia University, New York City. This article was first published on the website of the Makerere Institute of Social Research.]

Kony campaign won't help Uganda

By Tony Iltis

March 11, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly -- Ugandan newspaper the Observer reported on March 2 serious allegations against Ugandan troops in the Central African Republic (CAR), where they have been present since 2007, chasing the remnants of the Ugandan militia, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The allegations include rape, child prostitution, arms dealing and the plunder of CAR’s timber and diamonds.

Similar allegations have been made concerning the Ugandan army’s (the Uganda Peoples Defence Force, UPDF) 1997-2003 intervention in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Observer said. The UPDF and its predecessor, the National Resistance Army (NRA), have also been accused of human rights abuses in Uganda including the use of child soldiers.

A few days later US “charity” Invisible Children (IC) released the video KONY 2012, which instantly became an internet sensation. IC was established in 2006 by three US filmmakers who had released a documentary the previous year about the atrocities of the LRA and its leader, Joseph Kony.

The video demands its viewers “do something” to bring Kony to the International Criminal Court, which indicted him for war crimes in 2005. The film says its aim is to support the Ugandan military by supporting US military advisers in the country ― justified by the need to capture Kony, who has not been in Uganda since 2006.

Millions have responded, forwarding and retweeting the video and IC’s campaign.


Despite its phenomenal success, the film has received criticism. This includes the narcissism of the filmmakers and the exclusion of African voices beyond a few stereotypical victims ― promoting the colonial myth of noble and competent Westerners saving black African victims from black African ogres.

The blatant commercialism of the campaign ― “doing something” meaning buying something overpriced from IC ― has also been criticised, especially given the high wages of the three filmmakers and IC’s enormous expenses (more than US$1million annually on travel), leaving only 30% of the money they raise going to Africa.

Others have criticised the film’s lack of context and inaccuracies. One of these is not making it clear the LRA have not operated in Uganda since 2006 when they were driven out in a US-supported UPDF offensive.

The film shows Kony with thousands of child soldiers behind him, but the LRA is now a remnant, with an estimated 200 remaining fighters. Furthermore, the focus on a single warlord takes the focus off the many other perpetrators of violence in one of the world’s most violent regions.

This “dumbing down” of the message is more than just patronising to viewers. Most of the millions of people viewing and forwarding the video would be shocked to learn that Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni’s government and military, who IC demand are given more arms to “get Kony”, are responsible for the same sort of atrocities as the LRA.

US intervention

The IC and KONY 2012 explicitly support US military intervention. When US President Barack Obama announced in October 2011 that the US had deployed 100 troops in Uganda, IC was quick to take the credit. It described it as “a huge victory for the hundreds of thousands of young Americans who have been lobbying Washington to take action”.

US military policy is generally not determined by the moral outrage of “thousands of young Americans”. In 2003, millions of people, in the US and around the world, took to the streets fuelled by moral outrage to oppose the invasion of Iraq ― which the US carried out regardless.

The war in Afghanistan is also deeply unpopular in the countries with soldiers helping occupy the country. Yet it continues.

The reality is that a permanent military presence in the Great Lakes region of Africa has been a US policy goal for many years.

The viral spread of KONY 2012 has been aided by prominent and supportive coverage in the mainstream media, celebrity endorsement and bipartisan support from US politicians. The reality is that IC is working to influence young people in the US and other Western countries on behalf of Washington’s war planners, not the other way round.

KONY 2012 portrays the LRA as if it came from nowhere.

In the 1970s, Uganda was ruled by Idi Amin, a tyrant whose regime killed at least 100,000 people. Amin came to power in an Israeli-backed military coup, but switched allegiance to the Gaddafi regime in Libya. This, along with his personal brutality and eccentricities, made Amin the West's archetype of a psychotic post-colonial dictator.

Having alienated the entire Ugandan political spectrum and launched irrational aggressions against neighbouring countries, Amin was overthrown in 1979 by Tanzanian troops and a broad coalition of Ugandan opponents.

Uganda’s nightmare continued, however, as the coalition fractured along ethnic rather than political lines.

DRC killings

Between 1979 and 1986, 500,000 Ugandans were killed in what became known as the Bush War. In January 1986, Museveni’s NRA took the capital, Kampala. Museveni’s predecessor, Tito Okello, was from the Acholi ethnic group from the north, who had been particularly persecuted under Amin.

The invasion of Acholiland and crushing of pro-Okello forces was particularly brutal, even by the standards of the Bush War. The dislocation and resentment this caused led to an armed religious millenarian movement, the Holy Spirit Movement. This was crushed, spawning a number of smaller, more violent, armed religious cults.

One was Kony’s LRA.The LRA’s brutality alienated the support it initially had in Acholiland, but it retained its influence through terror.

The focus of IC’s propaganda, as its name suggests, is on child soldiers. However, it was Museveni’s NRA that was the first armed group in Uganda to make widespread use of child soldiers. The December 15, 2002 British Sunday Times carried an interview with China Keitetsi, who joined the NRA in 1984, when she was eight years old.

Describing a massacre she took part in, still aged 8, she said: “When we got back to our camp, the prisoners were ordered to dig their own graves and some of our officers told us to spit in their eyes. The enemy was told that no bullets would be wasted on them … They were hit on their foreheads and on the back of their heads [with hoes] until they dropped into the graves and died.”

Before the invasion of Acholiland the NRA had a better reputation than other armed groups with regard to treatment of civilians. However, this created more suffering for the child soldiers. Keitetsi explained: “Museveni wanted us to be different from the government soldiers. If we were caught taking money, we were shot. If we stole food, we were shot ... I had to shoot my own friends, for stealing a sweet potato or cassava. That would be the last you saw of your friend, six bullets going into their bodies.”

Keitetsi eventually left the army and fled Uganda because of sexual abuse. She was 12 when she first had to sleep with a much older male soldier. “It was not once. It was every night. It was an order. It was a duty you had to fulfil. I couldn’t say no.”

Despite having previously professed Marxism, upon taking power Museveni adopted neoliberalism and allied with the US. He has, with US support, become a regional power.

Between 1997 and 2003, Ugandan troops took part in the devastating war in the DRC.

On October 1, 2010, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report in which Uganda and its Congolese proxies (who made extensive use of child soldiers) were accused of mass rape, targeted killings of civilians and other crimes against humanity.

IC has repeatedly pointed out that the LRA has killed tens of thousands. But their opponents killed millions in the DRC.

Ugandan soldiers are no longer directly involved, but the war in the DRC continues. Rival militias backed by either Uganda, Rwanda or the DRC’s weak government fight over the ability to use forced labour to mine minerals such as coltan.

The Congo War coincided with a boom in demand for these minerals because of their use in consumer electronics such as mobile phones and personal computers. Most Congolese coltan is exported, by way of Rwanda or Uganda, to the US.

One of several aspects of the KONY 2012 video that has outraged Ugandan commentators is it implies the LRA is still active in Uganda. Even the Ugandan government, which stands to benefit from IC’s campaign, has criticised this aspect.


The US military deployment is clearly not mainly to fight the LRA.

One factor is the recent discovery of oil in Uganda. Also, the focus on working with the UPDF is due to its growing role as a US regional proxy.

Since 2009, Ugandan troops have tried to impose a US-friendly order on Somalia, something not achieved by Ethiopian troops who invaded in December 2006 or a 1992-95 intervention by a US-led multinational force.

More generally, the US is looking for an African nation willing to host the US military command for Africa (AFRICOM), which since its establishment in 2008 has been based in Germany.

Competition for Africa’s resources with China (and to a lesser extent European powers such as France) is behind the US military interest in Africa.

However, fighting al Qaeda, and now the LRA, make more palatable public justifications.

Ugandan blogger Drew Ddembe wrote on March 8: “Today I have listened to lots of questions by really ignorant people! Just because they watched some 5 year old say Kony was a bad guy who made him sad, they believe they now know all about Uganda! Kind of like all those people who try to tell you they know all about Uganda ― because they watched the Last king of Scotland. This is activism pornography at its best! … Ugandans need to move on with their lives … not this time wasting white messianic crap! People need help to get back onto their feet. To fight poverty. To access quality healthcare. America sent 100 US troops into the region not to fight or look for Kony but to safeguard its interests in the region's resources. Let's not delude ourselves!”

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Sat, 03/17/2012 - 12:23


By Michael Wilkerson

March 7, 2012 -- Foreign Policy -- "Joseph Kony is basically Adolf Hitler. He has an army of 30 000 mindless children who slaughter innocent people in Uganda."

Have you seen something like that fly across your Twitter or Facebook feed? Or perhaps this?:

"#TweetToSave the Invisible Children of Uganda! #Kony2012 Make Joseph Kony Famous!!"

Kony 2012, a video posted by advocacy group Invisible Children to raise awareness about the pernicious evil of Lord's Risistance Army (LRA) leader Joseph Kony,  has already been viewed more than 8 million times on Vimeo and more than 9 million times on YouTube (and surely more by the time you read this) since its release this week.

It would be great to get rid of Kony.  He and his forces have left a path of abductions and mass murder in their wake for over 20 years. But let's get two things straight: 1) Joseph Kony is not in Uganda and hasn't been for six years; 2) the LRA now numbers at most in the hundreds, and while it is still causing immense suffering, it is unclear how millions of well-meaning but misinformed people are going to help deal with the more complicated reality.

First, the facts. Following a successful campaign by the Ugandan military and failed peace talks in 2006, the LRA was pushed out of Uganda and has been operating in extremely remote areas of the DRC, South Sudan and the Central African Republic -- where Kony himself is believed to be now. The Ugandan military has been pursuing the LRA since then but had little success (and several big screw-ups). In October last year, President Obama authorised the deployment of 100 US Army advisors to help the Ugandan military track down Kony, with no results disclosed to date.

Additionally, the LRA (thankfully!) does not have 30,000 mindless child soldiers. This grim figure, cited by Invisible Children in the film (and by others) refers to the total number of kids abducted by the LRA over nearly 30 years. Eerily, it is also the same number estimated for the total killed in the more than 20 years of conflict in northern Uganda.

As I wrote for FP in 2010, the small remaining LRA forces are still wreaking havoc and very hard to catch, but northern Uganda has had tremendous recovery in the six years of peace since the LRA left.

So why is "Uganda" trending on Twitter?

Unfortunately, it looks like meddlesome details like where Kony actually is aren't important enough for Invisible Children to make sure its audience understands. The video, narrated by Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell, says its purpose is to intensify pressure on the US government to make sure Kony is brought to justice this year, and as the message broadcast throughout says, what is important is simple: Stop Kony.

Among other emotive shots, the video features Russell's attempt to explain the LRA to his toddler son, enthusiastic (and mostly white) volunteers putting up posters and wearing Kony 2012 bracelets, and some heart-wrenching footage of children who walked for miles to sleep in a safe place at the height of the LRA's power in northern Uganda. The latter comprised much of Invisible Children's namesake first film and brought the organisation to prominence.

But in the new film, Invisible Children has made virtually no effort to inform. Only once, at 15:01 in the movie, over an image of a red blob on a map leaving northern Uganda and heading west, is the fact that the LRA is no longer in Uganda mentioned, and only in passing:

As the LRA begain to move into other countries, Jacob [one of the children filmed in Northern Uganda in 2003] and other Ugandans came to the US to speak on behalf of all people suffering because of Kony. Even though Uganda was relatively safe they felt compelled to tell the world that Kony was still out there and had to be stopped.

That's it, in a 30-minute movie. And with both the graphic and reiteration of how awful the LRA is, you might think reasonably "move into other countries" meant expanding rather than fleeing. In any case, the focus, seconds later,  is on Invisible Children's activities in the US at the time, not what was happening back in Africa. I can see why some of P. Diddy's followers might be confused.

Award-winning Ugandan journalist Angelo Izama is among those not thrilled:

To call the campaign a misrepresentation is an understatement. While it draws attention to the fact that Kony, indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in 2005, is still on the loose, its portrayal of his alleged crimes in Northern Uganda are from a bygone era. At the height of the war between especially 1999 and 2004, large hordes of children took refuge on the streets of Gulu town to escape the horrors of abduction and brutal conscription to the ranks of the LRA. Today most of these children are semi-adults. Many are still on the streets unemployed. Gulu has the highest numbers of child prostitutes in Uganda. It also has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis.

If six years ago children in Uganda would have feared the hell of being part of the LRA, a well documented reality already, today the real invisible children are those suffering from "Nodding Disease". Over 4000 children are victims of this incurable debilitating condition. It's a neurological disease that has baffled world scientists and attacks mainly children from the most war affected districts of Kitgum, Pader and Gulu.

Along with sharing the movie online, Invisible Children's call to action is to do three things: 1) sign its pledge, 2) get the Kony 2012 bracelet and action kit (only $30!), and 3) sign up to donate.

There is intense criticism out there over Invisible Children's finances, including that it spends too much money on administration and filmmaking, while still touting its on the ground NGO-style projects. Also, apparently it's never been externally audited. I'm going to stay out of that, other than to say you can check out IC's own financial disclosure information here.

What worries me more is that it's unclear what exactly Invisible Children wants to do, other than raise a lot of money and attention. Here's Russell in the video (21:40):

We know what to do. Here it is, ready? In order for Kony to be arrested this year, the Ugandan military has to find him. In order to find him, they need the technology and training to track him in the vast jungle. That's where the American advisors come in. But in order for the American advisors to be there, the American government has to deploy them. They've done that, but if the government doesn't believe the people care about Kony, the mission will be cancelled. In order for the people to care, they have to know. And they will only know if Kony's name is everywhere.

So the goal is to make sure that President Obama doesn't withdraw the advisors he deployed until Kony is captured or killed. That seems noble enough, except that there has been no mention by the government of withdrawing those forces -- at least any I can find. Does anyone else have any evidence about this urgent threat of cancellation? One that justifies such a massive production campaign and surely lucrative donation drive?

There are many reasons uninformed and oversimplified advocacy can cause trouble, and Siena Antsis catalogues some of them here, noting that Invisible Children expertly "commodifies white man's burden on the African continent".  Buy a bracelet, soothe some guilt.

But as researcher Mark Kersten notes, after "stopping Kony", then what? Or what if the activism just results the the 100 US advisors staying but no Kony?

One of the biggest issues with a simplistic "Stop Kony" message is that discussions of Navy Seals or drone strikes are inevitable when patience runs out with Ugandan-led efforts . But what about the dozens or hundreds of abducted and brainwashed kids? Should we bomb everyone? Will they actually stop fighting after Kony is gone? What if they shoot back?

Coming back to the Kony 2012 video and its celebrity endorsements, what are the consequences of unleashing so many exuberant activists armed with so few facts? Defining Uganda in the international conversation by issues that are either geographical misfires (Save northern Uganda!) or an intentional attempt to distract the international community (Death to the gays!), do a disservice to the many critical problems Uganda has.

In addition to the problems of poverty and nodding disease Izama highlights, Uganda is barely (if at all) democratic, and the president Yoweri Museveni ushered himself to a fourth term last year, taking him to over 25 years in power. Corruption is rampant, social services are minimal and human rights abuses by the government common and well documented. Oh, and oil is on the way.

Stopping Kony won't change any of these things, and if more hardware and money flow to Museveni's military, Invisible Children's campaign may even worsen some problems.

Here's to hoping Kony hands himself in tomorrow and that the fear of the US "cancelling" its LRA-hunt support is misplaced. But if the most impactful the result of Invisible Children's campaign is to cause millions of viewers to think northern Uganda is a war zone, even if it's not their intent, it's hard to defend.

[Michael Wilkerson is a freelance journalist and graduate student at Oxford who has lived and reported from Uganda.]

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Sat, 03/17/2012 - 20:23


Al Jazeera 14/03/2012

Uganda has, in the last week, been propelled to the top of the international news agenda, for a brutal rebellion that has not operated in the country for the last five years.

On March 5, American charity Invisible Children posted a video on Youtube, entitled Kony 2012. The 30 minute film, narrated by one of the organisations founders, Jason Russell, campaigns for the arrest of Joseph Kony, the ICC-indicted Ugandan leader of the rebel Lords Resistance Army.

It went viral, and in nine days has attracted over 76 million views, along with a lot of support and also substantial criticism.

Critics argue that the film relies on footage nearly ten-years-old of children fleeing the LRA in northern Uganda, implying the situation remains the same to this day, and so failing to represent the real issues now facing post-conflict Northern Uganda.

The LRA now operates in the Central African Rrepublic, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, and is now thought to number no more than 300 fighters.

Invisible Children argue that they have the main facts correct, and that raising awareness is their primary goal, and a necessary step towards any further change.

Public screening

While Youtube, Twitter and Facebook have gripped Uganda's middle class in recent years - and social networking sites have been key forums for the many Ugandan critics of the Kony 2012 video - most people in rural areas, including post-conflict northern Uganda, are still excluded from the internet revolution.

That means many of Joseph Kony's thousands of victims, most of whom live in rural villages, have never even heard of Kony 2012, Invisible Children or even Youtube.

Invisible Children's publicity machine is immense. Aside from the millions of internet users it has reached, and Kony 2012 already being described by some as the most effective viral campaign in history, it must also be the first ever Youtube video to be publicly screened in the northern Ugandan town of Lira.

A local charity, the African Youth Initiative Network, thought that the communities worst affected by the LRA, when it operated in Uganda, also deserved an opportunity to see what all the fuss was about, and so organized the event.

It was heavily publicized on local radio stations, and a crowd of thousands turned up at the Mayor’s Gardens in the centre of Lira for the sunset screening.

Having heard so many great things about the film, the crowd’s expectations were high.

Angry and offended

People I spoke to anticipated seeing a video that showed the world the terrible atrocities that they had suffered during the conflict, and the ongoing struggles they still face trying to rebuild their lives after two lost decades.

The audience was at first puzzled to see the narrative lead by an American man – Jason Russell – and his young son.

Towards the end of the film, the mood turned more to anger at what many people saw as a foreign, inaccurate account that belittled and commercialised their suffering, as the film promotes Kony bracelets and other fundraising merchandise, with the aim of making Kony infamous.

One woman I spoke to made the comparison of selling Osama Bin Laden paraphernalia post 9/11 – likely to be highly offensive to many Americans, however well intentioned the campaign behind it.

The event ended with the angrier members of the audience throwing rocks and shouting abusive criticism, as the rest fled for safety, leaving an abandoned projector, with organisers and the press running for cover until the dust settled.

It seems that the while the film has a viral power never seen before in the online community, it did not go down nearly so well with the very people it claims it is meant to help.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 03/18/2012 - 07:23


The fact of this war is that many American troops and not just 100 have been in Uganda in this war since operation Iron Fist in 2002 as allies of Uganda govt and have never left. They are the only ones who are fighting the LRA as the rest of the population do not want. Uganda govt has about 30000 of thier dehumanised troops in these area since 1997 when they invaded Congo. They local people know it is Museveni's greed that make him work with co-operations and other govt to kill African and take thier land and natural resources.

Invisible Children are working for Uganda govt and very close to the president's wife Janet. No one need them so they should stop making money out of our children's suffering.
What have they done about many children who are forcefully recruited by Museveni's govt since 1981 when he started his genocidal war? Instead they praised him for using children. Where were they when Museveni murdered and raped people in the North? Where were they when children had no where to flee because thir parents were rounded up by Ug govt and confined in squalid camps where 1000 people died every week?
Invisible Children(criminal)must stop playing with people's suffering!

Victim of intelectual and psychological abuse

By Alex de Waal -March 15, 2012

As a critic of the KONY2012 campaign, I have been asked the eminently practical question, "so what would you do about Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army?" Let me take this opportunity to respond.
There have been a number of proposals for peace in northern Uganda and the resolution of the LRA problem. As a framework, let me use a nine point comprehensive approach proposed by the International Crisis Group in January 2006.[1] Three points are military, six non-military. Let me give a scorecard for each one.

Apprehending the Indictees. Crisis Group called for capturing Joseph Kony and the other LRA commanders wanted by the International Criminal Court. Clearly, six years on, this has not been achieved, despite at least two major multinational operations (2006 and 2008) and other military efforts. The most recent initiative, set up in November 2011, is an African Union-led, UN and US-supported, four national joint military command. The scorecard: repeated effort, no success yet.

Crossing Borders in pursuit of the LRA. Before 2006, the LRA had evaded military pressure by escaping into southern Sudan or DRC, so this recommendation was intended to ensure an end to safe havens, and in particular that the Ugandans could pursue the LRA when it crossed a border. Since 2006, there has been good cooperation, culminating in the current AU effort, which surpasses the recommendation insofar as there are four armies, from Uganda, South Sudan, DRC and Central African Republic under a single command, with international backing. Scorecard: expectations surpassed.

Protecting Civilians. The Ugandan People's Defence Force (UPDF) failed to protect civilian populations from the LRA. Equally seriously, UPDF troops, who were far more numerous than the LRA, were themselves responsible for many abuses against civilians. The withdrawal of the LRA from Uganda in 2006 meant that it ceased to threaten Ugandans, though it has since threatened Congolese, South Sudanese and Central Africans. The removal of the LRA threat also meant that the UPDF deployment in northern Uganda has been scaled down, and IDPs have returned to their homes. Scorecard: near total success in Uganda, limited progress outside Uganda.

Comprehensive Dialogue. This recommendation referred primarily to the peace talks that were convened from 2006-2008 in southern Sudan, that didn't succeed. There is now little prospect of new peace talks, and so the recommendation as framed six years ago is no longer relevant. However, the wider issue of the political accommodation of northern Uganda within Ugandan national politics is important, and this has indeed occurred. Peace has returned to northern Uganda. Scorecard: mostly successful.

Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Initiative. The main concern of Crisis Group was to the return and rehabilitation of former LRA combatants, many of whom were abductees, and many of whom were children. The figure of 30,000 abductees sometimes mentioned includes both adults and children and refers to those who have been processed through reintegration programs. This represents the vast majority of former members of the LRA. Scorecard: mostly successful.

Humanitarian Aid. Crisis Group focused on emergency assistance to people displaced by the war. It didn't go so far as calling for reconstruction and development. Six years on, the humanitarian crisis has been resolved to the extent that emergency relief has been replaced by reconstruction and development. Scorecard: success, with expectations exceeded.

UN Security Council Action. The issue here was appointing a "UN envoy of stature" to lead the negotiations. Former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano was appointed but the initiative did not succeed. The UN Security Council and the African Union Peace and Security Council remain actively engaged, for example in mandating the four-nation military force that is spearheading the current military effort. Scorecard: recommendation implemented, but these actions have not yet achieved their goals.

Truth and Reconciliation Efforts. The reference here was to healing the wounds of war, going beyond the headline issue of prosecuting the major human rights offenders and also promoting reconciliation, involving traditional reconciliation approaches, psycho-social programs, reopening schools, etc. These are all slow and complicated processes and it is difficult to assess the record, but they are being attempted, more seriously and systematically than in most post-conflict situations. Scorecard: recommendation implemented.

Diplomatic Engagement. In 2006, Crisis Group referred to the need of donor countries "to engage quietly but strongly with President Yoweri Museveni and other Ugandan political leaders to make resolution of the conflict a major priority of the government and of all presidential candidates." This was a coded reference to the political marginalization of northern Uganda and the way in which the UPDF had vested interests in the ongoing conflict (senior officers had opportunities to profit) and the ruling party had political motives for retaining the country on a war footing. Six years on, although the authoritarian and militaristic nature of the Ugandan government is unchanged, its political inclusion of northern Uganda is much improved. Scorecard: partial success.

The overall scorecard is therefore:

Exceeded expectations: two.

Mostly successful: three.

Partial success: three.

Failure: one.

My answer to the question, "if you criticize KONY2012, what would you do?" is that African and international efforts have already solved most of the problems associated with the LRA and the conflict and humanitarian crisis in northern Uganda, and are making progress in the remaining areas. Let's keep up those efforts.

A second criticism is, "so what's the harm in drawing more attention to this problem?" I have a number of concerns about the impact of simplistic and paternalistic portrayals of African problems, in which Africans are treated as children waiting for Americans and Europeans to save them. I have concerns about military action being presented as the principal solution.

I also have another concern, less often voiced: the high level of attention on Kony is a distraction from other issues that are equally grave or more so. Senior policymakers' time is a very scarce resource. I recall that in 2006, senior officials in the U.S. administration estimated that President George Bush was spending more time focusing on Sudan (mostly on Darfur) than on China. What this meant in detail was that, (1) White House and State Department staff spent more time dealing with the U.S. activist groups than with the problems in Sudan itself, (2) decisions were shaped and timed by the demands of those campaigners as much as by the requirements of Sudanese realities, and (3) there was no other African political issue that could make it on to the agenda of the top decision-makers in Washington DC. Darfur was important, but not that important. Also, this exceptionally high level of attention gave the Darfur rebels the impression that they were very special indeed and could behave accordingly.

I am worried that the African troops chasing Kony will think that they have special privileges, and that the hunt for the LRA will drive other African issues off the U.S. policy agenda. Given that Invisible Children has achieved - in an election year - the remarkable feat of joining liberal internationalist students with hard-right Republican evangelicals, I worry that the U.S. administration's Africa staff will focus more effort on managing the implications of the KONY2012 campaign than responding to the many and complicated problems of the central African region.

March 14, 2012

Assocation of Concerned African Scholars has released a statement and accompanying press release expressing its deep concern that the recent campaign in the United States to pursue and arrest Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), could have dangerous unintended consequences. Expanding U.S. military operations with the Ugandan army to capture Kony could increase the militarization of the region and lead to deaths of civilians who are caught in the crossfire or become targets of retaliatory attacks by the LRA, as has occurred in the past.

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ACAS also is producing materials that scholars can use to engage with students on their campuses and with teachers and middle and high school students in their communities, who are a major audience of the Kony2012 video produced by Invisible Children.

Contact David Wiley(, chair of the ACAS Task Force on Demilitarizing Africa and African Studies for more information or to participate in this effort.