Ugandans get first taste of Kony video – and don't like it


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The Independent Online

Few faces evoke more hatred and fear in northern Uganda than Joseph Kony, one of Africa's most wanted men whose brutal legacy was thrust back into the spotlight by a hugely popular US video.

But at the first screening in northern Uganda on Tuesday of the 30-minute YouTube video produced by a California-based charity, many of Kony's victims were furious, arguing that their suffering was being exploited in a video that featured very few Ugandans.

A wave of anger swept over 27-year-old Isaac Omodo as he stared at fuzzy images of young boys mutilated by the rebel warlord whose drugged and vicious fighters abducted Mr Omodo's brother at the height of raids by Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in 2001. "Why are we being reminded? I feel bad. We want to just forget all about Kony and the LRA madness," said Mr Omodo, whose brother is still missing.

He was among thousands who gathered to watch the screening of the video, which has been seen by more than 77 million people. It has attracted endorsements from celebrities such as George Clooney and Oprah Winfrey in its quest to press for Kony's capture.

However, the campaign behind the video, which is the work of the little-known Invisible Children charity, has met with a sceptical backlash from some quarters. Critics say it oversimplifies a long-standing human rights crisis.

In Lira, a town still haunted by Kony's atrocities, disappointment and scorn filled many watching the scratchy images. Some jeered as the projection neared its end and scuffles broke out as simmering frustrations boiled over.

"Why didn't they use the real victims in this film?" asked Okello Jifony, who was forced to fight under Kony for 18 months. He was referring to the shots of the filmmaker Jason Russell's young son, who appears throughout the clip.

"Why make Kony famous? It baffles them," said Victor Ochen, director for African Youth Initiative Network, the charity behind the showing.

The present whereabouts of the former warlord are unknown. A Congolese general has rebuffed reports that Kony is in the Democratic Republic of Congo, saying on Tuesday that it was likely he had fled to the neighbouring Central African Republic.