PUBLISHED: 12:53 EST, 12 March 2012 | UPDATED: 18:49 EST, 12 March 2012
The filmmakers behind the Kony 2012 movie, which attracted 74 million viewers in one week, have been forced to release a new video sometime today defending their organization, Invisible Children, as mounting criticism diverts attention from their campaign to hunt down the Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony.
Critics have focused their attention on a 2008 photo of the Invisible Children founders holding two assault rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher as they pose with members of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army during stalled peace talks with Kony.
Today, Uganda’s biggest independent newspaper cited the picture as evidence of ‘a neo-colonialist mentality where the white charity worker came off as the long-waited saviour’ and slammed the filmmakers as self-interested Westerns hoping to make it big in Hollywood, with little understanding for the Ugandan people they are claiming to help.
The moving video about Kony’s brutal tactics — kidnapping tens of thousands of children over 25 years and forcing them to become soldiers or sex slaves — has dramatically raised the warlord’s profile and even brought the attention of some of the this nation’s biggest celebrities — from Rhianna to Oprah to George Clooney to Justin Bieber.
The 30-minute video raced across social media sites, receiving so many mentions on Twitter that ‘Uganda,’ ‘Invisible Children’ and ‘#stopkony’ were among the top tends last week — spots normally reserved for celebrity gossip.
With its ‘Make Him Famous’ slogan, the film promised that people half a world away could make a difference by increasing aware about Kony and his horrific crimes.
But the nearly-instantaneous fame also brought intense scrutiny of Invisible Children, followed by criticism of the group and its tactics. Others questioned whether the cause — hunting down a warlord who has been marginalized and pushed to the fringes — is worth all the attention and resources, when Africa continues to struggle with AIDS, malnutrition and rampant corruption.
One of the principle sore points is Invisible Children’s finances. Last year, the group spent just 37 percent of its $8.7million budget on programs in Africa. The rest of the money — $5.4million was spent on operating and maintaining the charity, including salaries for the 115 employees and the budget for the film.
Policy experts say the video dramatically over-simplifies the problems in northern Uganda that led to 25 years of war and more than 2 million displaced from their homes. And, they argue, the solutions aren’t nearly as straight-forward, either.
Hoping to fend off some of these criticisms, Invisible Children said it plans to release a 10-minute video today that ‘clicks through some of the explanations,’ CNN reported.
‘There’s nothing to hide — Invisible Children has been transparent since 2004, when we started,’ Chief Executive Ben Keesey told the network.
‘That’s our intention and we want to show that this campaign is part of a model and strategy that’s comprehensive.’
Supporters say Invisible Children is starting a dialogue about the problems in African and using social media and easy-to-understand characters and story-lines to draw in young Americans who would have never paid attention to the continent otherwise.
Many said the video had come too late, hinted at a neo-colonialist mentality where the white charity workers came off as the long-awaited saviour who finally came and stopped Kony.
Ugandan newspaper The Daily Monitor
But some of the most cutting criticism of the Kony 2012 campaign came from Uganda itself when the Daily Monitor, the country’s largest independent newspaper, published a series of articles today that mocked and condemned Invisible Children’s efforts in the east African nation of 36 million.
One story characterized the reaction of ordinary Ugandans as ‘angry that once again, the West had hijacked an African struggle; putting themselves at the front line of the fight against Kony and making it look like Uganda was sitting by idly as Kony murdered, abducted and raped.’
‘Many said the video had come too late, hinted at a neo-colonialist mentality where the white charity workers came off as the long-awaited saviour who finally came and stopped Kony,’ the newspaper added.
A column, written by a newspaper editor from northern Uganda, where Kony’s atrocities were concentrated, accused Invisible Children filmmakers of being more interested about their own fame than getting the facts right about Uganda.
‘Invisible Children are financially motivated and Kony has become their means to attaining Hollywood recognition,’ wrote Joseph Olara.
He said the founders are too quick to look for military solutions to Kony’s militants. Invisible Children has been a major backer of the Ugandan military, which has a host of human rights violations of its own.
Olara said the war against Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army tore apart northern Uganda for 26 years. Bringing more military intervention in now, when Kony’s forces are scattered and have dwindled to just 250, risks further destabilization.
The Monitor also pointed out that Kony isn’t even in Uganda any longer. In 2006 he fled the country and is now in the jungles of the Central African Republican, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.