Kony 2012 video divides opinion in Gulu

Monday March 19 2012

Residents watch the Kony 2012 video in Lira

Residents watch the Kony 2012 video in Lira Town last week. Many of them were not amused by the film’s content. Photo by Hudson Apunyo 

By Sam Lawino & Moses Akena

A section of Acholi elders have expressed mixed reactions after watching the American NGO’s controversial film Kony 2012 at a maiden showing in Gulu Town at the weekend.

Some of the leaders, who spoke to Daily Monitor, leaped to the defence of Invisible Children, describing the film as a true reflection of the atrocities committed by warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army rebels during the two-decade insurgency in northern Uganda.

“The film checks on our past to forge for the future in peace,” said Mr Simon Okello, a 71-year-old elder, who described the film as “recommendable” because it highlights the suffering people went through.

The screening was attended by a host of public dignitaries including DP leader Nobert Mao, who is featured in the film, International Affairs State Minister Henry Oryem-Okello, religious, district and cultural leaders from Acholi sub-region.

Mr Oryem described criticism levelled against the NGO as unfounded, in what appeared as a contradiction to the government’s position on the film.

“I do not know what the hullabaloo is all about but Invisible Children has done visible things in Acholi, for example offering scholarships to thousands of children and anyone against them is our enemy,” he said.

A similar screening in Lira Town last week ended with disappointment from viewers who accused the film makers of opening unhealed wounds and wrongly portraying that the war was still raging on in northern Uganda.

The government also issued a statement last week disagreeing with contents of the film and accused its makers of peddling a biased view that would scare away investors.

Ms Jolly Grace Andruville, the country director of Invisible Children, said the positive and negative criticism of the film have provided a learning point and helped propel the organisation into international limelight.

However, Mr Santonino Otto, 79, a former Parish chief from Palaro Sub-county in Gulu, whose left arm was reportedly cut off by the LRA, picked issue with the timing of the film’s release.

“Its attempt to show what happened here is only opening old wounds, a dilemma which can be solved by peace talks,” he said.
There were other voices that appeared to disagree with the film’s screening.

“The film never talked of UPDF that was a direct party to the conflict, LRA is not the first military to use child soldiers and I hope Invisible Children will focus on pushing for peace talks,” said Mr Patrick Loum, the project manager of Acholi Religious Leaders’ Peace Initiative.

On Saturday, the same day the film was screened in Gulu, one of its producers and co-founder of Invisible Children, Mr Jason Russell, was arrested by police in San Diego, USA, and put under psychiatric care for alleged public indecency.
However, Ms Okot said he was suffering from “stress after the unfortunate criticism of the film.”