Kony2012, the video of Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony that’s been viewed more than 100 million times on the Internet, was halted from being shown to his victims in the north of the country after a first screening provoked anger and violence.
African Youth Initiative Network, a Ugandan group that helps support victims of violence from the two-decade rebellion by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, organized a public viewing in the town of Lira on March 13, drawing 35,000 people. In the video by Invisible Children, a San Diego-based non-profit group, filmmaker Jason Russell attempts to explain Kony’s atrocities to his four-year-old son. He calls on supporters to lobby U.S. lawmakers and buy posters, t-shirts and wrist bands to publicize Kony’s name so he can be captured by the end of the year.
“The film produced such outrage, anger and hurt that AYINET has decided that in order not to further harm victims or provoke any violent response that it is better to halt any further screenings for now,” Victor Ochen, executive director of the group, said in an e-mailed response to questions yesterday. “The film’s overall messages were very upsetting to many audience members.”
Most who came to watch the screening didn’t have access to the Internet, electricity and TVs, Ochen said. Some viewers threw stones at the screen to show their dissatisfaction, he said.
Kony, whose official age isn’t known, has been on the run since being indicted by the International Criminal Court in 2005 on charges including murder, mutilation, rape and the abduction of 30,000 children for use as soldiers and sex slaves. The LRA rebels are accused of killing villagers with machetes and burning people to death in their huts at the instigation of Kony, who claims he is a prophet.
The 30-minute video by Invisible Children, created by Russell and two other filmmakers after a visit to Uganda in 2003, went viral on the Internet through campaigns on social- media networks like Facebook and Twitter. Celebrities such as Justin Bieber, the 18-year-old singer, and media magnate Oprah Winfrey, tweeted in support of the video to millions of fans, helping bolster support for the campaign.
Kony and his fighters have moved into the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo after fleeing northern Uganda six years ago. The armies of the four nations have disagreed about the threat posed by the LRA, slowing the progress to capture Kony.
The video is harming Uganda’s image by providing “misinformation” that the nation is at war, Patrick Mugoya, the permanent secretary in the Tourism Ministry, told reporters in the capital, Kampala, today. Uganda earned $662 million from tourism in 2010 and the film is “hurting our industry,” Mugoya said.
Victims were angry at the Kony2012 campaign’s strategy to make him famous and putting his face on t-shirts and posters, said Ochen, who collated comments from several victims in the e- mail.
“Which kind of movie is this with white people putting on t-shirts and bracelets of Kony,” said an LRA victim who watched the video in Lira and declined to be named because of possible reprisals from the rebel group. “Are they celebrating our suffering?”
In the video, Russell asks supporters to buy an “action pack” for $30 containing a t-shirt, bracelet, stickers, button and posters bearing the Kony2012 logo. The posters show Kony’s face with images of Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler. The campaign calls on young people around the world to put up posters on a global day of action on April 20.
“Our intention was to share the story of Joseph Kony with new people around the world,” Ben Keesey, chief executive officer of Invisible Children, said in a video on its website on March 13. “There is one thing that everyone agrees on, and that is that Joseph Kony should be stopped. The problem is that it isn’t that easy. Therefore the effort to stop the LRA has to be comprehensive and it has to be huge.”
In eastern Congo and South Sudan, where the LRA is still committing atrocities, many haven’t seen the video because of slow Internet connections.
“It has come at a very late hour,” Paul Meja, a 30-year- old businessman, said in an interview in Juba, South Sudan’s capital. “I wish that video came out during the war when Kony was terrorizing all these countries.”
LRA attacks in Congo have increased since Ugandan troops left the country three months ago, forcing more than 3,000 people to flee their homes in northeastern Dungu since February, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
“The young man who is the engine of the film, his words are still good words and it’s good that these words are spread,” Father Benoit Kinalegu, the head of the Catholic Diocesan Commission for Justice and Peace in Dungu, said in a phone interview. “Our wish is the wish in the video: the arrest of Joseph Kony.”
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