Category Archives: Uganda

Ugandan victims of LRA/Kony break up ‘Kony 2012’ screening, accusing it of white supremacy

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Thanks to Sons of Malcolm news blog for posting this article online as well:

Kony 2012 video screening met with anger in northern Uganda

It had been viewed more than 77m times around the world, but not by those who know the Joseph Kony best: his victims in northern Uganda.

That changed on Tuesday night when thousands flocked to watch Kony 2012, the video made by a US charity urging a grassroots campaign against the fugitive warlord that has gone viral.

The film was projected on to an ersatz cinema screen fashioned from a white sheet, held up by metal poles, in a town park. The reaction? Puzzlement, then anger, which boiled over into scuffles and stone-throwing that sent organisers fleeing for cover.

There was particular criticism of the Stop Kony campaign’s use of merchandise, such as bracelets and T-shirts, which victims said they find offensive.

“People were very angry about the film,” said Victor Ochen, director of a local charity, the African Youth Initiative Network (Ayinet), which arranged the screening. “They were all saying, ‘This is not about us, it does not reflect our lives’.”

Ochen said he had wanted to provide an opportunity for victims to see the film made by the charity Invisible Children, mindful that less than 2% of Ugandans have internet access.

The video, posted on YouTube on 5 March and narrated by one of Invisible Children’s founders, Jason Russell, had drawn the support of celebrities including George Clooney and Angelina Jolie, but provoked criticism for oversimplifying the conflict and not making clear that Kony was driven out of Uganda several years ago.

Before sunset on Tuesday two metal rods were hammered into dry dirt and grass and a white sheet hoisted to create an open-air cinema in the mayor’s gardens in the centre of Lira, 220 miles north of the capital, Kampala.

Word about the “premiere” spread on local radio, drawing a crowd on foot and bicycle that grew over several hours and was estimated at more than 35,000 by Ochen, though others put it at more like 5,000.

The expectant, excited spectators, many of whom cannot speak English, included victims who have been left scarred and maimed by Kony’s atrocities.

But Ochen, whose own father and brother were abducted by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), said on Wednesday: “Reacting to the film, there was a strong sense that the video was definitely not produced for an African audience, and that it was not sensitive enough to the victims.

“It was very hurtful for them and their families to see posters, bracelets and buttons, all looking like slick campaign ads of the person most responsible for their shattered lives. One young man who lost four brothers and one of his arms said afterwards: ‘How can anybody expect me to wear a T-shirt with Kony’s name on it?'”

He added: “For all the victims, the attempt to make Kony famous so as to prop up public support for his apprehension is laudable but the way this goal is pursued in the video is inappropriate and ignores their feelings.

“That fame is not what Kony deserves for causing so much suffering was one overwhelming reaction. People were asking: Why give such criminals celebrity status? Why not prioritise addressing the plight of the victims whose sufferings are visible?”

The screening ended amid jeers and scuffles, with some angry viewers throwing stones. Ayinet has decided to suspend planning screenings of Kony 2012 in other parts of northern Uganda indefinitely due to the hostile reaction.

Emmy Okello, a radio journalist in Lira, said: “I cannot understand the intention of this video. It is difficult to account to us if you are not including local people. What has angered people is that the video is about a white person, not about the victims. All of them came here hoping to see video that tells their story.”

Okello Jifony, who was forced to fight under Kony for 18 months, told Reuters: “We expected serious action, Americans fighting Kony like in a real movie.”

He added: “Why didn’t they use the real victims in this film?”

On Wednesday there were calls in Uganda to ban the campaign’s “Stop Kony” T-shirts from entering the country. One caller to a radio phone-in said: “The government must protect us victims not only from Kony but also from things that hurt us like these T-shirts.

“And as people of northern Uganda we will not accept anyone to cross Karuma (a bridge across the Nile that connects north to central Uganda) with that T-shirt.”

Al-Jazeera reporter Malcolm Webb blogged: “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, how ever well intentioned the campaign behind it.”

Kony, a self-proclaimed mystic, is wanted by the international criminal court for crimes against humanity.

On Tuesday a Congolese general said Kony and other LRA leaders have been chased out of the Democratic Republic of Congo to the neighbouring Central African Republic and no longer pose a threat in his country.

General Jean Claude Kifwa, in charge of fighting the LRA in Congo, told journalists: “We have reduced the capacity of the LRA. For us it’s no longer an issue of defence. It’s a public order issue.”

The comment follows a complaint by nearby Uganda that Congo was obstructing its US-backed hunt for Kony.

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U.S. House resolution calling for imperialist intervention of Uganda

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Ed. Note: The following article below, which was originally published by CBS News, is a case in example of the phony ‘Kony 2012’ movement being a p.r. campaign for U.S. imperialism in Uganda. The bourgeois officials are claiming to be doing so in order to “protect civilians”, and yet neglects to mention key facts in which not only contradict the Invisible Children’s propaganda film, but also the propaganda being used to justify imperialist intervention of the African country. 

U.S. HANDS OFF UGANDA!!! 

By Stephanie Condon
March 13, 2012

Two House lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a resolution supporting efforts to counter the Lord’s Resistance Army, hoping to build on the momentum created by a viral YouTube video spotlighting the atrocities of LRA leader Joseph Kony.

The resolution, introduced by Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Mass. and Ed Royce, R-Calif., calls for, among other things, expanding the number of regional forces in Africa to protect civilians and placing restrictions on individuals or governments found to be supporting Kony.

Kony gained notoriety in the U.S. this month when a 30-minute video produced by the group Invisible Children went viral, picking up more than 50 million views in just four days. The video spotlighted how the Ugandan warlord has been accused of kidnapping up to 30,000 children in the past 26 years, using girls as sex slaves and boys as child soldiers.

Invisible Children has since taken heat for how much of its budget it spends on aid to Africa versus marketing. Additionally, some Ugandans have complained the video misrepresents and over-simplifies the issue.

Still, McGovern said in a statement that the new attention the African conflict is receiving is a good thing.

“I am hopeful that we can use this momentum as a force for change,” he said. “We must do all that we can to protect innocent civilians — especially children — and end LRA violence once and for all.”

Last year, McGovern and Royce introduced and helped pass into law “The Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.” Subsequently, President Obama sent 100 U.S. troops to Central Africa to serve as advisers in efforts to hunt down Kony.

What’s behind KONY 2012?

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Complex situation will only be made worse with imperialist intervention

By Eugene Puryear
March 8, 2012

Is the recent discovery of oil in Uganda contributing to imperialism's interest in the region?

The power of social media is immense. That fact was fully on display as Facebook walls and in-boxes everywhere flooded with messages from a new political campaign “Kony 2012.” Kony 2012 purports to be aimed at bringing to justice Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, an armed rebel band that roams the jungles of northern Uganda and northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Kony is without a doubt an odious figure. Since 1987, his LRA has roamed across Uganda, the DRC, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Originally a part of a broader movement in Uganda focused on the rights of the Acholi people, the LRA morphed into a band of armed child soldiers, manipulated and drugged, rampaging wantonly across the landscape with seemingly no real goals or ideology. Principally, the LRA appears to be a vehicle for Kony’s own leadership fantasies, which are hard to decipher and most likely rooted in some ethereal alternative reality. It is indisputable that Kony and the LRA have had a devastating effect on the regions they have inhabited, engaging in killings, rapes and abductions that are deserving of condemnation.

Once these facts are taken into account, however, it must be said that the aims of Kony 2012, whether sincere or not, have absolutely no chance of helping the people of Uganda or the DRC to mitigate the ill effects of the LRA. Kony 2012 calls for military intervention from Western powers to capture Kony and extradite him to the Hague to be tried for war crimes.

While there is much to be said on this topic, progressive activists and revolutionary militants in the United States should keep three points in mind when considering the issues around the LRA.

1) Military intervention by the West has already been disastrous

The current Ugandan government has long been a friend of the West, and as it concerns the LRA, the United States in particular has been attempting to build up Ugandan military forces. In 2008, the U.S. African Command brought together the combined forces of the Ugandan, CAR and South Sudanese military in “Operation Lightning Thunder” to deliver a death blow to the LRA. This operation failed miserably, and in retaliation the LRA killed almost 1,000 people and abducted 700 people. Twenty thousand people were displaced in the process. One further casualty was fledgling peace talks that drowned in blood.

Rather than an isolated incident, this was just the most recent in a long line of failed attempts to destroy the LRA. The LRA operates in an area the size of France, significant parts of which are covered by dense jungle and seriously lacking in infrastructure. These offensives at best serve to drive the LRA further into the hardest to penetrate areas, where they live to fight another day. Small assassination squads and massive military forces have failed over and over to capture or kill Kony or make a significant dent in the LRA’s fighting ability. In fact, the only outcome of U.S.-supported offensives has been significant further suffering in the LRA’s areas of influence, where the innocent have been routinely victimized by the LRA’s retaliatory offensives.

Perversely, President Obama sent 100 troops to Uganda last fall to try again. As always, this new and improved plan is supposed to bear fruit, but the preponderance of evidence suggests that these strategies of dealing with the LRA militarily are at best aspirational and at worst (and most likely) futile.

2) Conflict is deeper than the LRA

As odious as the LRA may be, it is a limited part of a much broader regional conflict that has been raging across East Africa for well over a decade, in which millions of people have lost their lives and rape has become a weapon of war on an unprecedented scale. DRC, South Sudan and Uganda in particular have been racked by a series of regional conflicts fueled by the resource-extraction mania demanded by the always-hungry, never tired imperialist capital accumulation machine.

Over vast swaths of the countries mentioned above are a series of ethnic and regional conflicts that are further compounded by the desire of elites in the these states to establish their rule over both resource-rich areas and havens of their factional opponents.

This has created a vast array of militias of varying sizes and motivations continually fighting and moving across the region as necessary for survival, often using control over rudimentary mining operations to fund their activities. Some of these groups also ally themselves with one government or the other that provide funding and weapons and operate their own very brutal operations. On top of that, Western powers looking to exploit the resources of these regions ally themselves with these governments, arming and funding their military activities.

The Ugandan army that Kony 2012 hopes will put an end to the abuses of the LRA is itself a serial human rights abuser. In suppressing the Acholi revolt that the LRA sprang from, the Ugandan army forced thousands of people in the Acholi areas into concentration camps. There is also the brutal occupation Ugandan forces carried out for years in eastern DRC, systematically looting that country of a significant amount of its wealth. While hunting Kony in CAR, the Ugandan army looted, operated prostitution rings, and raped and infected girls with HIV. The Sudanese People’s Liberation Army, championed by Kony 2012, also has its own sordid record of brutal behavior.

It is patently ridiculous to suggest that sending a group of raping looters to solve human rights abuses will improve the situation for the peoples of Uganda, South Sudan or the DRC.

3) Strengthening the Ugandan army has repercussions for Ugandan progressives

Uganda is a country of deep divisions, and President Museveni has relied on a mix of co-option, intimidation and military campaigns to keep the country “unified” under the aegis of the National Resistance Movement. While a full analysis of the NRM government is beyond the scope of this article, it is worth noting that NRM often suppresses progressive activists, shows callous disregard for the rights of oppositional ethnic groups, and acts as the governmental wing of anti-gay lynch mobs.

Given this context, one cannot overlook the fact that better training, communications and arms for the Ugandan military is likely simply to result in more effective suppressive activity towards legitimate progressive and ethnic movements.

Taking all of this into account, it is clear that Kony 2012 deserves no support from the people of the world whom it seeks to rally under its banner. In the name of fighting for “human rights,” Kony 2012 is championing a rogues gallery of murdering, raping, corrupt governments and militaries that happily ally themselves with imperialist powers that have killed hundreds of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan in just the last decade.

Scrutinizing Invisible Children

It is also imperative that progressives seek to understand the origins of the Kony 2012 campaign, which has its roots in the organization Invisible Children. IC has been criticized for spending only 32 percent of its funds on direct services to children in Africa, with the remainder going to staff salaries, travel and transport and film production.

IC supports direct military intervention.Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army have been repeatedly accused of rape and looting, but IC continues to defend them, arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries,” although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission.

The journal Foreign Affairs writes that IC “manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony—a brutal man, to be sure—as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil,” (referring to a fictional character in Joseph Conrad’s novella “Heart of Darkness”).

Chris Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, has written on the topic of IC’s programming: “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.”

Another little-known but not insignificant factor at play in the region is the recent discovery of oil in Uganda. “One of the most spectacular recent finds has been in Uganda. The reserves of the Albertine rift, which takes in the Ugandan and Congolese shores of Lake Albert …, are said to need $10 billion for development. All being well, Uganda will soon become a mid-sized producer, alongside countries such as Mexico. Foreign investment in Uganda may nearly double this year to $3 billion. The country expects to earn $2 billion a year from oil by 2015.” (The Economist, May 31, 2010)

Could it be that a desire to get access to this bonanza is partly behind imperialist interests in intervening in the region’s conflicts? To ask the question is to answer it.

Rather than lining up with a blood-soaked coalition, people of conscience need to expose Kony 2012 and its deadly agenda, which is guaranteed to sink the region even deeper into the morass of death. There are no simple answers. Any solution to the suffering of the peoples of the region must be rooted in a perspective that seriously addresses the legacy of colonialism and ongoing neo-colonialism and the resulting underdevelopment, ethnic conflict and political corruption.

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Visible Children: A critical analysis on the ‘Kony 2012’ movement

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The following two articles being presented below is published here to raise legitimate awareness on the pro-imperialist ‘Kony 2012’ campaign being propagandized by the Invisible Children organization. The prison gates are open… will not tolerate this neo-liberal campaign to continue moving forward without it being exposed for its true intentions to more and more politically conscious people. I’m presenting this here in the hopes that everyone reading will spread it far and wide and build a collective response against the ‘Kony 2012’ propaganda: 

Kony 2012: Watch this before donating *Must Watch*

March 7, 2012

A brief look at what the KONY 2012 video DID NOT TELL YOU:

There are other charities through which you can help those children… an example is “Children of the Nations” who spend 86.9% of donations on the actual program. They have 4/4 stars in all categories and do not advocate for foreign intervention, hence much more trust-worthy.
http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=8392

This is to help you make an informed decision and more importantly to get a discussion rolling and encourage the charity to respond to these important points for our clarification. PLEASE SHARE.

LINKS:

KONY 2012 VIDEO:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc
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ONE: Last years account for the charity (on page 6) showing that only 31% of donations were actually used for the charity program
http://c2052482.r82.cf0.rackcdn.com/images/737/original/FY11-Audited%20Financ…
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TWO: Charity Navigator gives low ratings to this charity, mainly for lack of transparency
http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=12429
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THREE: Ugandan military accused of heinous crimes such as rape and murder… yet the charity funds them
http://www.observer.ug/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1…
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FOUR: Foreign affairs claim the charity exaggerates to manipulate viewers
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/136673/mareike-schomerus-tim-allen-and…
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FIVE: US Marines have failed to take Kony down, each time leading to harsh retaliations and death of many children (same link as FOUR)
http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/136673/mareike-schomerus-tim-allen-and…
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Detailed article about this:
http://sammhayden.tumblr.com/
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New York Times report about oil found in Uganda, “Gift that may become curse”
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/26/world/africa/uganda-welcomes-oil-but-fears-…
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Visible Children: We Got Trouble

March 7, 2012

For those asking what you can do to help, please link to visiblechildren.tumblr.com wherever you see KONY 2012 posts. And tweet a link to this page to famous people on Twitter who are talking about KONY 2012!

I do not doubt for a second that those involved in KONY 2012 have great intentions, nor do I doubt for a second that Joseph Kony is a very evil man. But despite this, I’m strongly opposed to the KONY 2012 campaign.

KONY 2012 is the product of a group called Invisible Children, a controversial activist group and not-for-profit. They’ve released 11 films, most with an accompanying bracelet colour (KONY 2012 is fittingly red), all of which focus on Joseph Kony. When we buy merch from them, when we link to their video, when we put up posters linking to their website, we support the organization. I don’t think that’s a good thing, and I’m not alone.

Invisible Children has been condemned time and time again. As a registered not-for-profit, its finances are public. Last year, the organization spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services (page 6), with much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport, and film production. This is far from ideal for an issue which arguably needs action and aid, not awareness, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they lack an external audit committee. But it goes way deeper than that.

The group is in favour of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government’s army and various other military forces. Here’s a photo of the founders of Invisible Children posing with weapons and personnel of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People’s Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them,arguing that the Ugandan army is “better equipped than that of any of the other affected countries”, although Kony is no longer active in Uganda and hasn’t been since 2006 by their own admission. These books each refer to the rape and sexual assault that are perennial issues with the UPDF, the military group Invisible Children is defending.

Still, the bulk of Invisible Children’s spending isn’t on supporting African militias, but on awareness and filmmaking. Which can be great, except that Foreign Affairs has claimed that Invisible Children (among others) “manipulates facts for strategic purposes, exaggerating the scale of LRA abductions and murders and emphasizing the LRA’s use of innocent children as soldiers, and portraying Kony — a brutal man, to be sure — as uniquely awful, a Kurtz-like embodiment of evil.” He’s certainly evil, but exaggeration and manipulation to capture the public eye is unproductive, unprofessional and dishonest.

As Chris Blattman, a political scientist at Yale, writes on the topic of IC’s programming, “There’s also something inherently misleading, naive, maybe even dangerous, about the idea of rescuing children or saving of Africa. […] It hints uncomfortably of the White Man’s Burden. Worse, sometimes it does more than hint. The savior attitude is pervasive in advocacy, and it inevitably shapes programming. Usually misconceived programming.”

Still, Kony’s a bad guy, and he’s been around a while. Which is why the US has been involved in stopping him for years. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has sent multiple missions to capture or kill Kony over the years. And they’ve failed time and time again, each provoking a ferocious response and increased retaliative slaughter. The issue with taking out a man who uses a child army is that his bodyguards are children. Any effort to capture or kill him will almost certainly result in many children’s deaths, an impact that needs to be minimized as much as possible. Each attempt brings more retaliation. And yet Invisible Children supports military intervention. Kony has been involved in peace talks in the past, which have fallen through. But Invisible Children is now focusing on military intervention.

Military intervention may or may not be the right idea, but people supporting KONY 2012 probably don’t realize they’re supporting the Ugandan military who are themselves raping and looting away. If people know this and still support Invisible Children because they feel it’s the best solution based on their knowledge and research, I have no issue with that. But I don’t think most people are in that position, and that’s a problem.

Is awareness good? Yes. But these problems are highly complex, not one-dimensional and, frankly, aren’t of the nature that can be solved by postering, film-making and changing your Facebook profile picture, as hard as that is to swallow. Giving your money and public support to Invisible Children so they can spend it on supporting ill-advised violent intervention and movie #12 isn’t helping. Do I have a better answer? No, I don’t, but that doesn’t mean that you should support KONY 2012 just because it’s somethingSomething isn’t always better than nothing. Sometimes it’s worse.

If you want to write to your Member of Parliament or your Senator or the President or the Prime Minister, by all means, go ahead. If you want to post about Joseph Kony’s crimes on Facebook, go ahead. But let’s keep it about Joseph Kony, not KONY 2012.

~ Grant Oyston

Grant Oyston is a sociology and political science student at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada. You can help spread the word about this by linking to his blog at visiblechildren.tumblr.com anywhere you see posts about KONY 2012.

Video: Uganda court defends homosexuals

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02 Nov 2010

A High Court judge in Uganda has ordered a local newspaper to stop printing photographs, names and addresses of the country’s gay people.

Human rights groups say that homosexuals have been attacked following the publication of a newspaper article calling for their deaths.

Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb reports from Kampala.

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