FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Wednesday - April 26, 2017

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

(Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi. © AP)For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Uganda (16)

Monday
Aug062012

"Saving the World From Madness" (REPORT) 

 

(Video: Sound bites from speakers at the UN WHO Meeting to launch the Quality Rights Tool Kit/NIA SPOONER)

By Dr. Judy Kuriansky

*Recently, the United Nations World Health Organization launched the Quality Rights Tool Kit, which supports countries in assessing and improving the quality of mental health care as a human rights condition. and civil society actors gathered together to lend their support to the project and to discuss how to promote the use of the Tool Kit in countries.  Dr. Judy Kuriansky was there to chronicle the discussion for HUMNEWS.

FACT:   Globally, one in four people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. Poor quality services and human rights violations in mental health facilities and social care homes are an everyday occurrence in many countries around the world. People living in mental health facilities are often exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment and many are subject to physical, sexual and emotional abuse. As a result, people with severe mental health conditions in some countries die as much as 10 years younger than the general population. (Source: WHO)

(DRAWING: ArtTherapy) “Derogatory words are used to describe us, such as mentally disturbed, having unsound minds, idiots, lunatics, imbeciles and many other hurtful labels,” declared Mrs. Robinah Alambuya of Uganda, to an invited audience of about 100 health professionals, UN agency officials, the UN Foundation academics, representatives of nongovernmental organizations, journalists and guests.  The diverse group was gathered at the Millennium Hotel Diplomat Ballroom in New York City, across the street from the main United Nations headquarters, for an event sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighting abuses in the mental health care system and to launch a landmark product, the WHO QualityRights Toolkit, to address the problem.

“These words and the beliefs from which they derive, devalue us and form the basis of discrimination and the loss of inherent dignity,” Alambuya said. 

SHOWING RESPECT

Representing African women and the voices of survivors of people with psychiatric and psychosocial problems in Africa, Alambuya made a plea for respecting those who deal with mental health distress. In her role as President of the Pan African Network of People with Psychosocial Disabilities monitoring inhumane health care systems, she applauded WHO’s efforts to insure those rights in her keynote speech.

The `Tool Kit' is an awareness and training campaign to provide the public, the private sector,  and government groups with actionable steps to stop human rights violations against people with mental health conditions, in order to improve the quality of care and to promote human rights as including mental health.

The recommendations can be implemented in developing and developed nations by all stakeholders, and even includes those with mental disabilities themselves.

"IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE"

Dr. Michelle Funk, Coordinator of Mental Health Policy and Service Development in the Mental Health and Substance Abuse department at WHO, pointed out the extent of the problem with "One in four people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime," she said.

Suicide is among the top three cause of death in young people aged 15-34 worldwide. Qualified caregivers are scarce with less than one psychiatrist serving 200,000 in almost half the world populations. Yet poor quality services and human rights violations are pervasive in social care homes and mental health facilities where patents are often exposed to inhuman and degrading treatment. And worse, to physical, emotional and even sexual abuse. 

“It is a scandal that still today many mental health facilities are places of violence and harmful treatments practices rather than places of care and support," said Funk. “One of the most important points to note about this tool kit is that it establishes the key standards that need to be met in all inpatient and outpatient mental health and social care facilities across the world.” She went on to praise the role of the governments of Spain and Portugal in providing funds to help produce the toolkit.

NOTABLE ADVOCATES

Panelists at the June 28th event represented a wide range of perspectives about the issue, including UN and government officials, an African woman with disabilities, and a former prisoner from the slums of India.

Hollywood film producer Gary Foster described his evolution to become a mental health advocate when producing the film “The Soloist“ - a true life story about a former cello prodigy who developed a mental health condition and became homeless on the streets of Los Angeles. Foster, who also produced “Sleepless in Seattle” and "The Score” spent time on skid row where he discovered that all people have “dream for success.”  

Serving as an important example of how the campaign goals can be accomplished, Ambassador Carlos Enrique Garcia Gonzalez, Deputy Permanent Representative of El Salvador to the UN, described his government’s recent advances in ambitious health care reform, including a social development component with a human rights approach - pointing out how abuses of mental health are not an isolated issue, because mental health care extends to all facets of society, and is integrally tied to attitudes and poverty. 

Often times, people with psychosocial disabilities become homeless, are abandoned by their families, and are detained against their will by authorities - neglected in inferior conditions. Therefore, mental health services need to encompass access to decent work, education and quality of life. 

Panelist Julian Eaton, a psychiatrist and mental health advisor from the West Africa Office of CBM in Togo, discussed how "the value of technology in such a campaign, particularly the use of mobile phones, is revolutionary". 

The initiative builds on WHO’s Mental Health and Development Report, published in 2010 and is also based on the framework of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which asserts that “human rights standards that must be respected, protected and fulfilled in all facilities”.

(Video: WHO)

A short film was shown of cruel and deplorable conditions in a care center, showing emaciated patients, chained to beds, crying out and lying in excrement. Ambassador Gonzalez pointed out that mental health workers themselves, who have to work in substandard conditions, are another victimized group. 

As a psychologist who has worked in many mental health institutions with psychiatric patients, I asked Michele Funk whether a solution would be to allot needed funds for improvements in these facilities.  “No", she responded, “They must be shut down, and new ones opened.”

CRITICS, SUPPORTERS

While generally lauded, the Toolkit is not without criticism.  Alambuya expressed concern about the emphasis on a medical model of service delivery that does not adequately take into account the social problems faced by persons with mental disabilities, saying, "The voices of people with disabilities must be heard, using the popular phrase, `Nothing about us, without us'”.

(PHOTO: Adolescents are generally perceived as a healthy age group; yet an estimated 10-20% of them experience a mental health problem/WHO)In a powerful close to the panel, Gregory David Roberts, speaking from personal experience of his being imprisoned and overcoming drug abuse, the author of the best-selling novel “Shantaram”  recounted the story of a fellow inmate - mentally challenged - who had been abused by the other prisoners; and who despite consistently smiled.  One day the man found unhatched eggs, and put them under his armpits until they hatched.  The baby pigeons became valued and protected in the jail, eventually taming hard-hearted cruel prisoners.  The experience prompted Roberts to learn lessons about his shame for not defending the man, and about the power of people of mental disability to transform others.

Roberts recounted another story of a mentally challenged young man who would have been arrested had it not been for the community people who chained him up near them, where he could be cared for and protected from arrest,  underscoring his point that community-based programs are key.

More launches of the toolkit campaign will be held to gain more visibility for the project.

“Everyone should have access to mental health care,” said His Excellency Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the sixty-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly. Recommending mainstreaming of mental health care, he noted that his own state of Qatar introduced a resolution to the UN General Assembly to introduce and International Day of Autism"If we all consider human rights together," he said, “We can make a difference.”  

- Dr. Judy Kuriansky is the Main United Nations NGO Representative for the International Association of Applied Psychology and a member HUM's Board of AdvisorsA licensed clinical psychologist in the Departments of Clinical Psychology at Columbia University Teachers College, she is world renowned as a humanitarian who has led workshops on peace, trauma recovery, crisis counseling and on her unique East/West intervention programs around the world, from Argentina to India, Singapore, the Czech Republic, Israel, the UAE, and Iran. She has worked in disaster relief and psychological first aid at Ground Zero after 9/11, after SARS in China, bombings in Jerusalem, earthquakes in Australia and Haiti, the tsunami in Sri Lanka and the tsunami/earthquake in Japan, information about which is on www.DrJudy.com. An award-winning journalist and accomplished author, she is a tireless advocate for media which sheds light.

Friday
Apr202012

UGANDA - Two Views on Joseph Kony (PERSPECTIVE) 

"MY UGANDA" by Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi

(Video PM Office, Uganda)

(HN, April 20, 2012) - Last Saturday April 14th,  the Prime Minister of Uganda Amama Mbabazi posted a video on YouTube entitled “Visible Uganda” aimed at what he says is correcting the inaccurate portrayal of Uganda resulting from the “Kony 2012” video by the Invisible Children Organization which over 100 million people worldwide have viewed and portrays Uganda as unsafe due to the activity of Joseph Kony's Lord’s Resistance Army.

The video recognizes that in the past Uganda did suffer atrocities as a result of LRA activity. Similar atrocities are very much a reality in neighboring countries tho, says the Prime Minister.  Further he goes on, "The government is determined, having suffered the ravages of Kony in Uganda not to let any other country or communities suffer the same”.

The video points out that Uganda is now a "thriving peaceful country" where the Peace, Recovery and Development Programme implemented by the Government has greatly assisted in the last 6 years of lasting peace, rejuvenation and rebirth of the Northern Region of the country where the LRA was most active.

(PHOTO: Prime Minister of Uganda, Amama Mbaba)“My Uganda is a country endowed with great resources and captivating natural beauty,” Mbabasi says. “My Uganda is a country that is poised to take off. We have registered success after success in the last 25 years and we are determined to build on this success to bring about in the next few years a new and prosperous nation.”

He invites people not only in Uganda but across the world to share their Ugandan experiences and he ends by saying, “That is my Uganda. Please tell us about your country”

--Source, Uganda Prime Ministers Office

###################################################################

Kony 2012 & Cover the Night - promoting international justice starts here at home

(Video Kony 2012)

By Noelle Jouglet

Over the last several weeks, our organization Invisible Children, has seen what is possible when you have the right idea at the right time…and have spent nine years unwittingly laying a foundation for it. 

Our idea was to make Uganda's Joseph Kony, the notorious head of the Lord's Resistance Army famous - not as a celebrity - but as an international war criminal who has committed mass atrocities with impunity for 26 years. 

We made a 29-minute documentary about what he had done and what policy experts and region leaders told us needed to happen if Kony was to be apprehended and his crimes permanently stopped.

(PHOTO: Joseph Kony/NNDB)We set an ambitious goal aiming to get 500,000 people to view the film before the end of 2012. Instead, it vastly exceeded our expectations. The film swept the globe and surged past 100 million views in a matter of days. 

But beyond the exposure for Invisible Children, and much more importantly, the global reaction to our film started real conversations about international justice, development work, Joseph

Kony, and whether there was any action—like a tweet—that was too small.   

In the weeks since the film’s release we’ve been amazed by the responses from middle schoolers who are bringing up Joseph Kony in their social studies classes and equally amazed that US Senators and Representatives are putting partisan politics aside for the sake of a conflict in one of the remotest parts of Central Africa

Between the House and Senate, 107 Members of Congress have signed onto bipartisan resolutions that call for robust U.S. support for regional efforts to protect communities and help bring Joseph Kony to justice.

Many have expressed surprise at Invisible Children’s apparent overnight success. 

But that is hardly the case. We have actually produced 12 documentaries and met more than three million people face-to-face during our 13 tours around the country where our representatives show our films at high schools and colleges and answer questions about the conflict. 

When Invisible Children launches a new campaign, it’s not just the forty people in our San Diego office launching it, it's the millions we have met on the road.   

There were many celebrities that shared KONY 2012 in the first hours and days after its release through social networks and other means. We are so grateful that they used their influence to share the story, but I do not believe that those celebrities would have heard about the film if our core supporters hadn’t rallied around the campaign in their own local communities and shared it in such great numbers using their personal networks.

(PHOTO: Joseph Kony, center, in white/Guardian)The original goal of Cover the Night, as introduced in the KONY 2012 film, was to make Joseph Kony famous. That happened in a matter of days thanks to millions of people around the world who shared the KONY 2012 films. The event has expanded into a global day of action that actually started earlier this week with daily “missions” to engage our national and international leaders.

Tonight, Friday, April 20, 2012, we are earning the right to be heard globally by serving locally.

Everyone who wants to participate is encouraged to form a small team with friends, colleagues, or neighbors. Each team should volunteer in their own communities for a few hours (picking up trash, washing cars for free, donating blood, etc.) and then spend the evening promoting justice for Joseph Kony in creative ways (posters in the windows, sidewalk chalk, painting a mural, etc.)

What I’ve learned in the seven years that I’ve worked for Invisible Children is that a personal, human interaction is more valuable than a digital one. 

Every time. 

Cover the Night in its simplest form is an event that acts out that truth. We’re taking the anonymous conversation about a viral video into the streets where the relationships are formed and the future is forged.

We always tell our supporters, “You are more powerful than you think you are.” When they begin to believe that about themselves, amazing things start to happen. We’ve seen students wake up to their own power and begin organizing school-wide screenings of Invisible Children documentaries or donate $12 each month to our scholarship program. Other students call their senators and lead local lobby meetings. 

(PHOTO: Labuje camp, Uganda 2005 where 14,000+IDP's lived due to LRA activity/Wikipedia)There are thousands of these students out there–some of whom have grown up and become teachers or filmmakers in their own rights. They are the ones who will be leading the way tonight.  They may be young, but they can earn the right to be heard online and around the globe by acting offline in their own communities.

We know that these stories will be rolling in for weeks and Invisible Children will do its best to share those stories and amplify the life change that will come as a result of trying to promote justice for Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony, a man whom many people had never heard of just six weeks ago. 

But rather than wait to hear the reports of life change, we encourage you to go out into your community tonight with your family or friends and experience it for yourself.

-- Noelle Jouglet is the Director of Communications at Invisible Children. Her editorial originally appeared on FOXNEWS.COM

Monday
Apr092012

Mr. Gay World Takes Africa by Storm as Controversy Continues on the Continent (NEWS) 

(PHOTO: A billboard advertises the Mr. Gay World finals at South Africa's Gold Reef City, Johannesburg, on Sunday/MABUTI KALI)(HN, April 9, 2012) - A 32-year-old New Zealand manager for a chain of stationery stores, won the title of Mr. Gay World during the final competition that ended late Sunday at the Gold Reef City resort in Johannesburg, South Africa.

The grand finale was hosted by local stars Soli Philander and Cathy Specific, who were joined onstage by the group African Umoja, and international performers such as Ukraine's top pop star, Kamaliya and guest artist Baby M from Japan, as well as local stars Terrence Bridgett and Alexander Steyn.

Andreas Derleth, 32, a German man who lives in New Zealand won the competition which included 24 other delegates from all over the world including:  Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Ireland, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland and the United States. Only three of them are from Africa and it's also the first time black Africans took part.

Founded in 2008, the Mr. Gay World competition was created as`a positive environment for gay men to share their stories. The winner would not only have the inner beauty of confidence, self-assurance, charisma and natural leadership abilities, but would also take care of his physical beauty.'

Prizes included $25,000 in travel vouchers to enable the winner to spread his message around the world.

Gay rights have been under pressure in many parts of the globe recently - Asia, Eastern Europe and the Middle East - but primarily in African nations where gay rights activists have been threatened and killed and where dozens of countries have passed laws banning homosexuality.  

Of particular concern in recent years have been attacks on lesbians sometimes called "corrective rapes."

(PHOTO: Lexus sponsors the Mr. Gay World contest, Johannesburg, SA/Mr. Gay World) Prominent African politicians ridicule gays and minor politicians grab headlines by proposing even tougher anti-gay laws.

In nations such as Uganda, Zimbabwe  and Ethiopia court battles and street clashes have defined the movement with strong feelings on both sides as the continent modernizes.

Therefore, many of the African participants faced the most intense discrimination and prejudice, though the location of the event took place in South Africa - the only country on the continent where gay marriages are allowed.

The bill of rights adopted after apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994 explicitly bans `discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation'. Same-sex couples can marry and adopt children in South Africa.

Originally, Africa was to be represented by South Africa, Namibia, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, as a lack of sponsorship and funding prevented delegates from Tanzania, Ghana and Kenya from taking part.

But relentless government pressure on the Zimbabwean delegate, Taurai Zhanje, forced him to withdraw from the competition fearing the publicity was making life difficult for his mother. 

Namibia's representative, Wendelinus Hamutenya, was attacked in early December and landed in hospital but his family accompanied him to the airport for a warm send-off when he left for the competition.  "Bring the trophy home,"  Hamutenya's mother said to him.

Though he lost, a disappointed Hamutenya said he would nonetheless return to Namibia to fight "for gay rights and human rights."

Since becoming Mr. Gay Namibia, Hamutenya has lobbied for a repeal of his country’s anti-sodomy law. And he says, politicians have been receptive to his arguments.

The Ethiopian delegate, Robel Hailu, is a student in South Africa and after his candidacy was announced on Ethiopian radio a media storm broke out and his father cut off all communications.

(PHOTO: Andreas Derleth beat out 24 other contestants to be crowned Mr. Gay World/Mr. Gay World) It wasn't just African gays who faced difficulties this year however. The Chinese contestant was unable to come to Johannesburg because of anti-gay pressure there, organizers said. 

Mr. Gay World includes an essay test on the history of the gay rights movement. But the swim suit competition counts for more, according to the judges’ handbook. The seven judges from around the world include journalists and an actor.

South Africans Charl van den Berg and Francois Nel were Mr. Gay World in 2010 and 2011 respectively, bringing home the honor of winning a world event twice in a row.

"We look for the best man, whether he’s white or black or any other color," said Tore Aasheim, one of the Mr. Gay World organizers, adding he hoped more contestants from Africa would participate in future contests.

---HUMNEWS

Thursday
Apr052012

Kony 2012: Political Protest or Propaganda? (PERSPECTIVE) 

(Video: Kony 2012, Part 2, Beyond Famous)

By Bridgette Gamble

Over the past few days the Facebook and Youtube communities have proved that the power of social media is still quite overwhelming. A thirty minute documentary, known best as the Kony 2012 video, created by Jason Russell, is the source of all the internet mayhem and is a call to action against a rebel military group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), that has been fighting in Uganda since the 1980s.

The video names Joseph Kony as the main target, as he is the leader of the rebels in Uganda, and calls for American’s to “make him famous” by buying T-shirts, posters, bracelets, and making contributions to the Invisible Children organization that is behind the video.

(PHOTO: Jason Russell, Invisible Children, Kony 2012 producer/IBTimesJason Russell promises that the American people will stop Joseph Kony and his rebel army, and starts the 20-12 campaign. He swears to target 20 policy makers and 12 Culture makers to help him spread the word about Kony and make the people care; in order to keep American military advisors in Uganda to train their forces, therefore furthering the movement to capture Kony.

However, there seems to be a few things wrong with the facts at hand. First, reports from various newspapers state that Kony has not set foot in Uganda since 2006.

The video depicts the children of Uganda to be paralyzed with fear, as the camera crews follow a group called “The Night Commuters,” a group of children who travel from their homes at night to avoid abduction. Of course, every scene is filled with tears and heart-wrenching stories about lost loved ones, but the video shows one of Russell’s interviewees, Jacob, first as a young child and later as a grown man, around his twenties or so. The time gap between the shots of young Jacob and older Jacob is significant, therefore can we really be sure what happened in that time frame?

(PHOTO: Joseph Kony, centre, in white; surrounded by Lord's Resistance Army officers/Guardian)Not to mention the interview conducted with Kony himself, found on worldstarhiphop.com, in which Kony denies that the LRA has been involved with any of the alleged abductions, rapes and other heartless acts so vehemently protested and covered by the Invisible Children’s video campaign. Not only are the soldiers who appear in the video adults, but they attest with Kony that they have not abducted any children in the past.

When asked about the brutal mutilating of children’s faces, the rebel leader appears shocked as he answers. “I have not cut the faces of my brothers. I would not hurt my brothers, kill my brothers,” Kony said. He made it clear that he has been fighting for the freedom of Uganda, and feels he has posed such a threat that the Ugandan government is raining propaganda down on him in order to shut down the rebellion.

If we lay the fact that Kony may actually be an innocent man aside, we still have to assess the Invisible Children organization. Research drawn directly from the organization’s website shows that only thirty two percent of the millions of dollars they are raking in is actually sent to Uganda.

A look at the federal tax information raises the question, where exactly is our money going? It is not specified anywhere on the website (invisiblechildren.com), yet contributions in the form of donations and purchases of the “action packs,” posters, and t-shirts continue to pour in at overwhelming rates.

It is clear that somewhere along the lines, the truth is not being told. Either Kony is a malicious killing machine who rapes young girls and recruits boys for his army of wrong-doers, or there is quite a mountain of propaganda and slander crushing an innocent man’s name.

--- Bridgette Gamble is the Photography Editor at the The Knight Times Online John I. Leonard High School in Lake Worth, FL.  This article first appeared there.  

Thursday
Mar152012

Ugandans React with Anger to Kony Video (REPORT) 

By Malcolm Webb

Uganda has, in the last week, been propelled to the top of the international news agenda, for a brutal rebellion that has not operated in the country for the last five years.

On March 5, American charity Invisible Children posted a video on Youtube, entitled Kony 2012. The 30 minute film, narrated by one of the organisations founders, Jason Russell, campaigns for the arrest of Joseph Kony, the ICC-indicted Ugandan leader of the rebel Lords Resistance Army.

It went viral, and in nine days has attracted over 76 million views, along with a lot of support and also substantial criticism.

Critics argue that the film relies on footage nearly ten-years-old of children fleeing the LRA in northern Uganda, implying the situation remains the same to this day, and so failing to represent the real issues now facing post-conflict Northern Uganda.

The LRA now operates in the Central African Rrepublic, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, and is now thought to number no more than 300 fighters.

Invisible Children argue that they have the main facts correct, and that raising awareness is their primary goal, and a necessary step towards any further change.

Public screening

While Youtube, Twitter and Facebook have gripped Uganda's middle class in recent years - and social networking sites have been key forums for the many Ugandan critics of the Kony 2012 video - most people in rural areas, including post-conflict northern Uganda, are still excluded from the internet revolution.

That means many of Joseph Kony's thousands of victims, most of whom live in rural villages, have never even heard of Kony 2012, Invisible Children or even Youtube.

Invisible Children's publicity machine is immense. Aside from the millions of internet users it has reached, and Kony 2012 already being described by some as the most effective viral campaign in history, it must also be the first ever Youtube video to be publicly screened in the northern Ugandan town of Lira.

A local charity, the African Youth Initiative Network, thought that the communities worst affected by the LRA, when it operated in Uganda, also deserved an opportunity to see what all the fuss was about, and so organized the event.

It was heavily publicized on local radio stations, and a crowd of thousands turned up at the Mayor’s Gardens in the centre of Lira for the sunset screening.

Having heard so many great things about the film, the crowd’s expectations were high.

Angry and offended

People I spoke to anticipated seeing a video that showed the world the terrible atrocities that they had suffered during the conflict, and the ongoing struggles they still face trying to rebuild their lives after two lost decades.

The audience was at first puzzled to see the narrative lead by an American man – Jason Russell – and his young son.

Towards the end of the film, the mood turned more to anger at what many people saw as a foreign, inaccurate account that belittled and commercialised their suffering, as the film promotes Kony bracelets and other fundraising merchandise, with the aim of making Kony infamous.

One woman I spoke to made the comparison of selling Osama Bin Laden paraphernalia post 9/11 – likely to be highly offensive to many Americans, however well intentioned the campaign behind it.

The event ended with the angrier members of the audience throwing rocks and shouting abusive criticism, as the rest fled for safety, leaving an abandoned projector, with organisers and the press running for cover until the dust settled.

It seems that the while the film has a viral power never seen before in the online community, it did not go down nearly so well with the very people it claims it is meant to help.

Originally published by AlJazeera under Creative Commons License 

Wednesday
Jan112012

Ending The LRA: Reason For Optimism And Political Commitment (PERSPECTIVE)

By Ned Dalby

Marie-Paul Kimakosa, 18, with 12 month-old son Emmanuel Mbolina, and Mado, 3 (sleeping). Formerly of Ngilima village, Marie-Paul lost her husband, her father, grand-father, grand-mother to the LRA. Two cousins have been kidnapped and not returned. She fled to Dungu where she has settled with other internationally displaced persons (IDP's). July 2011 PHOTO CREDIT: Oxfam International /via FlickrInfrequent observers of central Africa are startled and appalled to learn that the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a Ugandan rebel group that emerged in the late 1980s, is still killing. Forced into the border zones of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Central African Republic (CAR) and South Sudan, its brutality can no longer be framed as political protest but rather survival by its own awful, time-tested method.

However, military and civilian efforts to stop the LRA are gaining momentum and there is now a precious opportunity to end the nightmare of thousands. To make the most of it, African leaders and foreign partners should commit to an immediate military push and measures to help traumatised communities recover in the long-term.

In late 2008 Joseph Kony, the group’s leader, refused to sign a peace deal with the Ugandan government. Talks collapsed and the Ugandan army botched a US-backed assault on the LRA’s camps in north-eastern DRC. Since then it has been trying to catch Kony and scattered, highly mobile groups of fighters in dense forest.

The political agendas of the region’s leaders have made a difficult job even harder. Since the LRA no longer presents an immediate threat to Ugandans, there is understandably little domestic pressure on Museveni to invest the men and money needed to complete the mission. He has prioritised other more politically rewarding goals, including his re-election in February 2011 and beefing up the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). In mid-2010 he pulled out about half the troops assigned to the operation. The campaign of attrition became markedly more passive and for months was little more than a cordon preventing the LRA’s return to Uganda. Local armies meanwhile have neither the will nor the strength to protect their people, let alone hunt down Kony’s fighters.

The DRC’s tolerance of a Ugandan military presence on its soil has been exhausted. During the second Congo war (1998-2003) Uganda occupied part of Congo’s territory, plundered its natural resources and earned President Joseph Kabila’s lasting mistrust. A deeply engrained animosity has seen the Congolese army deny the Ugandans access to LRA areas and in October 2011 forbid them to leave camp, reportedly on pain of death. Most of the LRA is in the CAR but could cross back into Congo at any time and find safe haven.

The LRA is inevitably a low priority for the governments of Uganda, the DRC, CAR and South Sudan sitting hundreds of kilometres away in country capitals. But an outcry from local civil society and pressure from human rights groups, particularly in the U.S, has made it difficult for western partners to stand idle.

Under direction from Congress, the US. government has committed to using political, economic, military and intelligence means to eliminate the LRA threat. The deployment in late 2011 of about 100 troops to Uganda, a minority of which have now advanced to south east CAR to advise and assist the Ugandans, is the clearest expression of US commitment to the fight.

The African Union (AU) is also in the process of launching its “regional cooperation initiative” to end the LRA. The three countries affected by Kony’s violence pushed the AU to the fore hoping it would bring in more funding. Looking to promote African ownership, the US also encouraged it. The AU’s limited capacity and difficulty reconciling the demands of affected member states and those of its main backer, the EU, have delayed the launch. But in November 2011 the AU appointed a special envoy to muster political will on the LRA issue and plans to reframe the operation as a “regional intervention force” thereby investing it with greater l