THERE is growing outrage in Uganda over a viral internet film viewed by more than 32 million people in four days that suggests Africa’s longest-running conflict is still raging in the country’s north.
The 30-minute video, Kony2012, was produced by three American videographers campaigning for greater efforts to capture Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
But Kony and his diminishing troops, many of them kidnapped child soldiers, fled northern Uganda six years ago and are now spread across the jungles of neighbouring countries.
“What that video says is totally wrong, and it can cause us more problems than help us,” said Dr Beatrice Mpora, director of Kairos, a community health organisation in Gulu, a town that was once the centre of the rebels’ activities.
“There has not been a single soul from the LRA here since 2006. Now we have peace, people are back in their homes, they are planting their fields, they are starting their businesses. That is what people should help us with.”
Joseph Kony, a former church altarboy, has spread terror through eastern and central Africa for almost three decades, as he has pursued an aimless war that has killed thousands of people and at one point forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
The video, from Invisible Children Inc, an activism organisation, was posted to YouTube and Vimeo, a film-sharing site, on Monday night and by late on Thursday it had been viewed 32,600,000 times.
It aims to make Kony “famous” by encouraging supporters to plaster US cities with posters, in order to make the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army an issue of “national interest” to Washington.
That, the video’s makers claim, will ensure funding for 100 US military advisors sent to train African armies to find Kony will continue.
“Suggesting that the answer is more military action is just wrong,” said Javie Ssozi, an influential Ugandan blogger.
“Have they thought of the consequences? Making Kony ‘famous’ could make him stronger. Arguing for more US troops could make him scared, and make him abduct more children, or go on the offensive.”
Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan journalist specialising in peace and conflict reporting, said: “This paints a picture of Uganda six or seven years ago, that is totally not how it is today. It’s highly irresponsible”.
There were criticisms that the film quoted only three Ugandans, two of them politicians, and that it spent more time showing the filmmaker's five-year-old son being told about Joseph Kony than explaining the root causes of the conflict.
Invisible Voices has faced criticism over its finances. Of more than £6 million it spent in 2001, less than £2.3 million was for activities helping people on the ground. The rest went on “awareness programmes and products”, management, media and others.
“It is totally misleading to suggest that the war is still in Uganda,” said Fred Opolot, spokesman for the Ugandan government.
“I suspect that if that’s the impression they are making, they are doing it.