Anti-Kony video draws criticism in Uganda

Joseph Kony, in an undated photo

(CBS/AP) KAMPALA, 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.

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.

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Olara Otunnu, a former U.N. 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."

The group has been criticized for how much it spends on marketing instead of direct aid to Africa. According to Invisible Children's most recent financial report, the organization last year took in $13.8 million in revenue, and of its $8.9 million in expenditures spent about 37 percent - just $3.3 million - on programs in central Africa.

Appearing on "CBS This Morning," Jedidiah Jenkins, director of ideology for Invisible Children, said the organization has funded an "early warning" radio network, and that the majority of money they spent in Africa has gone to rehabilitate northern Uganda: "We rebuild schools that have been destroyed by the war, we give these kids mentors because they've lost family members to the war. We give formerly abducted women who have rebel babies, we give them jobs as seamstresses through our Mend program. We teach adults how to read.

"The truth is, if you want sustainable peace, if you don't want to see another warlord rise up, these people have to have a bright economic future. We want a holistic approach to really rehabilitate the region to create lasting peace."

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Latigo said that the Ugandan government, by failing to deploy enough soldiers to prevent the LRA from abducting children over the years, had been partly responsible for the rebel group's success as a recruiter of children.

"Our position was clear. We told the government, 'There are not enough soldiers,'" he said.

Invisible Children said that in its quest to garner wide support of a complicated issue, it tried to explain the conflict in an easily-understandable format. It said that many nuances of a 26-year conflict are admittedly lost or overlooked in a half-hour film.

Not everyone is critical of Invisible Children's campaign. Maria Burnett, a researcher on Uganda for Human Rights Watch, said the video has helped draw attention to an issue the rights group has long been working on.

"We hope it will be helpful," she said. "What it leads to remains to be seen, but the goal to bring pressure on key leaders, to protect civilians and to apprehend LRA leadership is important, absolutely."

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