New film on LRA courts controversy

A sensational video released by Invisible Children, a US charity, chronicling LRA anarchy in northern Uganda, has raised suspicion after its maker exhorts immediate American military action at a time the rebel force poses no threat to the country.

Friday March 9 2012

Jason Russell, Co-founder Invisible Children.

Jason Russell, Co-founder Invisible Children. His 30-minute documentary focusing on an LRA survivor, Jacob, has courted criticism on its timing, message and balance. 

By Tabu Butagira

A sensational video released by Invisible Children, a US charity, chronicling LRA anarchy in northern Uganda, has raised suspicion after its maker exhorts immediate American military action at a time the rebel force poses no threat to the country.

The 30-minute documentary titled, Kony 2012, has at its heart a tear-jerking narration by LRA survivor Jacob, a teenager from Acholi sub-region, the former epicentre for the rebellion.

The rebels first escaped to South Sudan and onward to DRC’s dense Garamba Forest, before spreading to Central African Republic.

Latest UN alerts indicate they have resumed plunder of villages, abduction and or killing of civilians after a four-month respite.

In the movie uploaded on YouTube on Monday, which had been viewed 32.6 million times by 6pm yesterday, Jacob tells of how LRA rebels beheaded his brother.

“It’s better to kill us,” he tells the movie-maker Jason Russell, a co-founder of Invisible Children. The teenager says immediate death would relieve him of an uncertain future, and enable him spiritually re-unite with his slain brother.

The image of toddler Garvin, Mr Russell’s son, is flashed and he can be heard concluding that Kony is a “bad guy” who must be “stopped”.

UPDF spokesman Felix Kulayigye said he had not watched the video but welcomed any help to capture or kill the elusive rebel chief.

“Whether Kony is in Uganda or not, the bottom line is he must be eliminated. The crime he is committing elsewhere is still against humanity,” Col. Kulayigye said.

Critics
Government officials contacted by this newspaper were unaware of the video that has elicited social media comments from world celebrities; singer Robyn Rihanna and TV personality Oprah Winfrey.

“Everybody who’s tweeting me about #LRA I’ve helped. Gave major dollars had Invisible Children on my show 2x,” Oprah tweeted.

In Kampala, former Gulu District chairman and Democratic Party president Norbert Mao, who features in the video urging a halt to massacres by LRA rebels, however, faulted the documentary for lack of balance.
“It needs to be told clearly to the world that northern Uganda does not have LRA activities. Invisible Children seems scared to take on Uganda government, and if they are not showing atrocities committed by UPDF, we are not happy,” Mr Mao said.

The NGO also came under strong criticism after it emerged that it spent only 30 per cent of the $8.9m (Shs 20b) it mobilised for the children in their names from well-wishers. The bulk of the cash was expended on salaries, office rentals, travel as well as filming, according to Invisible Children’s audited accounts.

Invisible Children, Enough Project and Resolve jointly wrote to US president Barack Obama on Wednesday, urging him to keep the Special Forces in the Great Lakes and pressure regional governments to cooperate to apprehend Kony before the end of this year.

tbutagira@ug.nationmedia.com

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