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In the Media

article imageWikileaks: Kony video makers Invisible Children spied for Uganda

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By Anne Sewell
Apr 11, 2012 in World
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According to Wikileaks, the makers of the viral Kony 2012 video have apparently helped the Ugandan government arrest a former child soldier. They also backed an operation that killed more civilians than militants.
RT reports that Wikileaks has obtained a memo which was written by a public affairs officer at the U.S. embassy in Uganda. This memo documents the collaboration of Invisible Children with Ugandan intelligence services. The memo can be viewed here.
In the memo, it states that the U.S.-based NGO had tipped the Ugandan government to the whereabouts of one Patrick Komakech. Komakech is a former child soldier who participated in the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in Uganda. He was wanted by security officials for apparently extorting money from government officials, local tribal leaders and NGO's.
In the June 11, 2009 cable, the U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Steven Browning stated: “Invisible Children reported that Komakech had been in Nairobi and had recently reappeared in Gulu, where he was staying with the NGO. Security organisations jumped on the tip and immediately arrested him.”
Joseph Kony
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Leader of the Lord's Resistance Army Joseph Kony
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“He had a satellite telephone and other gadgets which were confiscated when he was picked up." said Browning.
Ugandan security organisations immediately arrested Komakech on receiving this tip.
However, both Invisible Children and the UPDF dismissed details of the leaked memo on Monday. Officials from the U.S. Mission in Kampala were not available for comment, due to the Easter holiday.
UPDF Spokesperson Felix Kulayigye stated: “That’s a lie. Komakech was arrested in broad day light and we didn’t need a muzungu to tell us where he was.”
And Florence Ogola, the Ugandan spokesperson for Invisible Children state: “That is not true. We are not involved in anything to do with security. We only deal with development.”
She states that the allegations that the charity was involved in spy work for the UPDF is merely part of the “propaganda” and “tagging” after the release of the Kony 2012 video earlier this year. Critics have dismissed the video for its alleged simplistic portrayal of the 20 year conflict and its insistence that a military solution is required.
Following the arrest of Komakech, the Ugandan military then performed a sweep and arrested several more people, many of whom stated they were innocent, according to the Ugandan Media.
Human rights organisations have stated that torture of arrested suspects is routine in Uganda.
A further joint attack by Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the then-autonomous South Sudan against the LRA, known as "Operation Lightning Thunder" (OLT) was also actively supported by Invisible Children.
This operation also received U.S. logistical backing and intelligence, and killed more civilians than LRA militants.
The U.S. ambassador to Uganda noted in a further confidential memo that the U.S.-based NGO had planned pro-OLT events under the theme “Kony Must Be Stopped. Rescue Our Children”.
Browning states that the local Invisible Children activists led these events, including a visit to Washington to meet with lawmakers, and awareness campaigns, in the U.K., U.S., Canada, Mexico and Australia.
However, a Ugandan opposition politician, Norbert Mao, disputes this: “I did not support OLT,” Mao told The Black Star News “It was an operation to rain bombs in the areas where Kony was believed to be participating and would lead to indiscriminate killing of those the operation was intended to rescue. But even so, I believe there is no purely military solution to the LRA issue. Even after the release of Kony 2012 I stated clearly that the doors to peaceful solutions must never be closed”.
The viral video, Kony 2012, currently has a viewership of 100 million and Invisible Children have released a sequel.
The video makers have been criticized for oversimplifying the issue and have been accused of giving financial aid to the Ugandan government and Sudan People's Liberation Army, both having been guilty of human rights violations.
This has been denied by Invisible Children, who have also been accused of being weak on aid, and heavy on advocacy, and that most of the money received from donations has been used for travel, transport, film production and staff salaries.
As reported on Digital Journal recently, Uganda's Prime Minister made a video of his own, stating that Kony 2012 "misinforms".
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