Viral sensations are strange things. As soon as anything truly goes viral it seems a tide of naysayers rises up to contradict those who have jumped on the bandwagon; every action has an equal an opposite reaction.
Invisible Children’s massively viral video on brutal Ugandan mercenary Joseph Kony found its fair share of critics among US audiences who accused the non-profit group of everything from plain oversimplifying to corrupt profiteering. But you can now count actual Ugandans among the critics as well.
CBS News reports that a number activists in Uganda are now criticizing the video: “There is no historical context. It’s more like a fashion thing,” says Timothy Kalyegira, whom CBS describes as a “social critic” and newspaper editor in Uganda.
The accusations against Invisible Children range from lack of fiscal transparency to the group’s tactics. Financial issues such as how much the group’s administrators pay themselves are disputed in heated arguments online, but the heart of the matter seems to be the group’s cooperation with the Ugandan government: Invisible Children has sought to work with the government to stop Kony’s abuse, but the government itself is widely seen as committing it own genocide against Ugandans in the northern region of the country.
Invisible Children defends its strategy, saying, “The only feasible and proper way to stop Kony and protect the civilians he targets is to coordinate efforts with regional governments.” But critics aren’t having it, and accuse the group of allying with as great an evil as they’re trying to extinguish.
“Theirs is a narrow perspective,” said Ogenga Latigo, a northern Ugandan politician who led opposition in the Ugandan parliament.
Others are skeptical about the timing: “The issue has been around for ages,” said Ugandan political analyst Nicholas Sengoba. “We have to ask ourselves why suddenly there is this uproar. I believe that these people have other motives that they are not putting out in the open.”
And of course, many in the U.S. are skeptical of the timing America’s own sending 100 combat troops to Uganda just last year–after two decades of Kony’s rapacious abuse—the very same year that 2.5 billion gallons of oil were suddenly discovered along the Ugandan border.
Many point out that a deeply systemic, macroeconomic change in the region of Uganda and Congo is needed. Without a seismic shift in the nation’s institutions, picking off Kony will simply allow another warlord to rise up in his place, and won’t stop the Ugandan government from engaging in genocide.
However, Invisible Children doesn’t seem unaware of this. Defending the group’s education spending for Ugandans the group’s Jedidiah Jennkis told CBS this morning, “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.”
President Obama recently applauded Invisible Children’s video. As was the case with last year’s “humanitarian mission” in Libya, it may be that murky ulterior motives hang behind all the Ugandan attention. But whatever the motive, it’s hard to see how all the new attention brought to Ugandans’ plight is a net negative.
CBS notes Luis Moreno-Ocampo, head of the International Criminal Court where Kony is wanted for war crimes, describes the attention garnered by the Invisible Children video as “incredible, exactly what we need.”