The Guardian reports: It had been viewed more than 77m times around the world, but not by those who know the Joseph Kony best: his victims in northern Uganda.
That changed on Tuesday night when thousands flocked to watch Kony 2012, the video made by a US charity urging a grassroots campaign against the fugitive warlord that has gone viral.
The film was projected on to an ersatz cinema screen fashioned from a white sheet, held up by metal poles, in a town park. The reaction? Puzzlement, then anger, which boiled over into scuffles and stone-throwing that sent organisers fleeing for cover.
There was particular criticism of the Stop Kony campaign’s use of merchandise, such as bracelets and T-shirts, which victims said they find offensive.
“People were very angry about the film,” said Victor Ochen, director of a local charity, the African Youth Initiative Network (Ayinet), which arranged the screening. “They were all saying, ‘This is not about us, it does not reflect our lives’.”
Ochen said he had wanted to provide an opportunity for victims to see the film made by the charity Invisible Children, mindful that less than 2% of Ugandans have internet access.
The video, posted on YouTube on 5 March and narrated by one of Invisible Children’s founders, Jason Russell, had drawn the support of celebrities including George Clooney and Angelina Jolie, but provoked criticism for oversimplifying the conflict and not making clear that Kony was driven out of Uganda several years ago.
Before sunset on Tuesday two metal rods were hammered into dry dirt and grass and a white sheet hoisted to create an open-air cinema in the mayor’s gardens in the centre of Lira, 220 miles north of the capital, Kampala.
Word about the “premiere” spread on local radio, drawing a crowd on foot and bicycle that grew over several hours and was estimated at more than 35,000 by Ochen, though others put it at more like 5,000.
The expectant, excited spectators, many of whom cannot speak English, included victims who have been left scarred and maimed by Kony’s atrocities.
But Ochen, whose own father and brother were abducted by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), said on Wednesday: “Reacting to the film, there was a strong sense that the video was definitely not produced for an African audience, and that it was not sensitive enough to the victims.
“It was very hurtful for them and their families to see posters, bracelets and buttons, all looking like slick campaign ads of the person most responsible for their shattered lives. One young man who lost four brothers and one of his arms said afterwards: ‘How can anybody expect me to wear a T-shirt with Kony’s name on it?'”
He added: “For all the victims, the attempt to make Kony famous so as to prop up public support for his apprehension is laudable but the way this goal is pursued in the video is inappropriate and ignores their feelings.
“That fame is not what Kony deserves for causing so much suffering was one overwhelming reaction. People were asking: Why give such criminals celebrity status? Why not prioritise addressing the plight of the victims whose sufferings are visible?”
The screening ended amid jeers and scuffles, with some angry viewers throwing stones. Ayinet has decided to suspend planning screenings of Kony 2012 in other parts of northern Uganda indefinitely due to the hostile reaction.