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Anti-Kony video campaign draws criticism in Uganda

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 Friday that the 30-minute video misrepresents the complicated history of Africa's longest-running conflict.

world Updated: Mar 10, 2012 08:06 IST

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 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.

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 terrorized 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 coordinate efforts with regional governments."

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."