Wikileaks exposes Invisible Children: "GAMES THE ACHOLI DIASPORA CONTINUE TO PLAY.”

As if the mounting criticism and pressure wasn’t enough, in yet another moment of bad press for Invisible Children (IC), which recently released the two short films: “Kony 2012” and  “Kony 2: Beyond Famous,” reports have surfaced that the organization engaged in intelligence work for the Ugandan government and its military – the UPDF.

The US diplomatic cable released as part of WikiLeaks' massive "Cablegate" series, was sent on June 11, 2009, and signed by then US Ambassador to Uganda Steven Browning.

 

The cable which is titled, "GAMES THE ACHOLI DIASPORA CONTINUE TO PLAY," concerned  reports of a "new rebellion in northern Uganda" organized by “members of the Acholi ethnic group, of which Joseph Kony is also a member.”

The cable describes Ugandan government reports of a "new resistance group called the Peoples' Patriotic Front (PPF)" that had "begun stockpiling weapons in the districts of West Nile" and was attempting to win support of Acholis abroad for a new effort to overthrow the government of President Yoweri Museveni.

Then in early 2009, the UPDF arrested a number of people “alleged to be involved in plots to attack military targets,” including Patrick Komakech.  A USB flash disc “forgotten” in an internet café also became another rallying point for the arrests.

Komakech, reportedly a former LRA child soldier, had been involved with IC for some time and appeared in several of its videos. (A 2007 Des Moines Register story describes a bike trip he and other former child soldiers took across Iowa organized by American missionaries).

According to the diplomatic cable, it was Invisible Children that gave the government the tipoff on where to find Komakech:

“The latest plot was exposed when the Government received a tip from the U.S. non-governmental organization (NGO) Invisible Children regarding the location of Patrick Komekech………., Komekech is purportedly a former child soldier abducted by the LRA. Invisible Children had featured him in its documentaries. Invisible Children reported that Komekech had been in Nairobi and had recently reappeared in Gulu, where he was staying with the NGO. Security organizations jumped on the tip and immediately arrested Komekech on March 5. He had a satellite telephone and other gadgets, which were confiscated when security forces picked him up.”  The memo can be viewed here.

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/06/09KAMPALA587.html

IC is also alleged to have backed an operation that killed more civilians than militants when Operation Lightening Thunder was mounted by the UPDF under the supervision of American forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The leaked memos also document that U.S. officials were aware of the Ugandan government’s campaigns to demonize opponents of their military solution against the LRA by portraying them as collaborators to Joseph Kony’s LRA.

In Kony 2: Beyond Famous it is clear that IC has a military agenda and wants to send in 5000 troops to capture Kony. In truth this means that if the mission fails like Operation Lightning Thunder, it will only lead to the deaths of more innocent civilians.

What is unclear is whether Invisible Children provided additional intelligence information to the UPDF beyond what is referred to in the U.S. memo, what is clear is that the relationship continues.  The US State Department didn't respond to an email sent by this paper to question whether a U.S. NGO was authorized to share intelligence information with Ugandan authorities leading to arrests.

Some legal experts say IC may be exposed to liability from the people arrested as a result of the tip-off to Ugandan authorities.  Because since their arrest, the state is yet to prove their case; meanwhile reports in the media indicate that the suspects have been subjected to relentless tortured.

According to IC's PR plan to promote armed operations against the LRA outlined in the memos, Ugandan officials and leading opposition politicians, such as Norbert Mao, backed the military approach, and were to be brought on trips to the U.S. to meet with lawmakers to help build U.S. support.  Later, an LRA Disarmament bill was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, paving the way for deployment of the U.S. military personnel in Uganda.

By actively engaging in intelligence work for the Ugandan authorities and then promoting the regime's militarisation of the region, IC shouldn't be entitled to its not-for-profit status. The U.S. embassy memos have clearly provided more insight into the working relations between IC, the Ugandan authorities and the U.S. government -- dating back to the George W. Bush administration, this working relationship is an abuse of its NGO status and an insult to the very people IC purports to be helping.

News in Picture

Gulu Municipal Council seems to have embarked on a beautification project to refurbish downtown areas Gulu Municipal Council seems to have embarked on a beautification project to refurbish downtown... Read more

Countdown to 2016

I Am Declaring My Intention To Stand For Woman MP For Lamwo - Dr.Paska Layet The race for the woman parliamentary seat for Lamwo district is about to heat up with the incumbent and aspirant already lobbying for support from... Read more

Features

With declining external funding, Lacor hospital looks to local community for support
Monday, 23 June 2014
St Mary’s Hospital Lacor, one of Uganda’s leading hospitals has... Read More...
Why Lamogi Eat Bats
Monday, 23 June 2014
Food will always differ by culture and region – in some regions,... Read More...

Opinons

Criminal Gangs In Acholi Must Be Taken Very Seriously
Monday, 30 June 2014
The shooting to death of at least four boda boda riders and hijacking... Read More...
Why spate of armed robberies won’t be the last for northern Uganda
Monday, 07 July 2014
On Friday morning last week, in a hastily organised press conference... Read More...
5th June 2014 Was World Environment Day (WED): What does it mean to Ugandans?
Monday, 09 June 2014
As the world marked World Environment Day, (WED), the Ugandan leader... Read More...

Acholi Times Exclusive Interview

Ronald Reagan Okumu, Member of Parliament for Aswa County
Monday, 16 May 2011
 Acholi can recover from the war and the current economic crisis... Read More...
Acholi Legislators Are Not Resisting Development – Hon Reagan Okumu
Monday, 03 June 2013
The chairperson for Acholi Parliamentary Group (APG) and Member of... Read More...
Nile Award medallist Labeka Auma Okwong, 80.
Monday, 14 May 2012
When it came to education, girls were viewed as would-be prostitutes... Read More...
Ronald Reagan Okumu, Member of Parliament for Aswa County - Part 2
Monday, 23 May 2011
 In the last part of our interview, Hon Reagan Okumu talks to Acholi... Read More...

Land Issues

Acholi Chiefdom Advises Politicians To Stick To Politics
Monday, 13 August 2012
“They incited the community on land... Read More...
Fake Land Committees In Amuru Conning Museveni – MP Olanya
Monday, 08 October 2012
 said that these scrupulous... Read More...
Tension Mounting Between Communities in Amuru And Adjumani
Monday, 27 August 2012
A total of over 2,000 people from West... Read More...
Legislators from Northern Uganda Say Government is Behind Land Conflicts
Monday, 13 August 2012
They made the statements last weekend... Read More...

Witness

Male Rape Victims In Acholi Sub Region speak out
Monday, 20 May 2013
Much as raped men rarely speak out about their experience, victims in... Read More...
Former Abducted Girls Demand An Apology From President Museveni
Monday, 10 June 2013
Formerly abducted girls in Acholi Sub Region are demanding for an... Read More...
Acholi war debt Claimant’s cash worth Shs 5billion unutilized as wrangles rage on
Monday, 25 February 2013
At the ripe old age of 90, Ms Kijia Akello often treks over 15... Read More...
Apaa women haunted by rape ordeals at the hands of UWA and police
Monday, 12 March 2012
Amuru They say that they wept and cursed to no avail. A section of... Read More...
NRA rape victim seeks compensation and justice
Monday, 23 May 2011
Mzee Emilio Odong 72 is an elderly disabled man who hails from the... Read More...