Invisible Children, Makers of KONY2012, Spied For Ugandan Regime ---WikiLeaks

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Invisible Children duped a global audience by hiding the fact that it shared intelligence leading to arrests of regime opponents.


[Exclusive: Black Star News Editorial] 
 
Invisible
Children, makers of KONY2012, provided an intelligence tip to Uganda's
security apparatus leading to arrests of several suspected regime
opponents, according to U.S. embassy cables posted by WikiLeaks. 
 
The
San Diego-based group has since 2008 acted in concert with the Ugandan
government in coordinating public relations campaigns to promote a
military solution against the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), while
keeping the U.S. administration informed. Key partnerships formed by Invisible Children in Washington, D.C. include lobbying organizations Resolve Uganda and the Center for American Progress' Enough Project ; groups that have also promoted U.S. military penetration in Africa.


The
memos also document that U.S. officials were aware of the Ugandan
government's campaigns to demonize opponents of the military approach by
linking them to the LRA as sympathizers or collaborators -- even
church leader Bishop John Baptiste Odama was implicated. 

A
spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State declined to comment on the
U.S. memos and its contents when excerpts were sent via email message
for reaction. Invisible Children's CEO Ben Keesey didn't return a phone
message left at the San Diego office seeking comment. Additionally, an
outside spokesperson for the organization didn't respond to detailed
questions submitted via email message. 
 
It's unclear whether Invisible Children provided additional intelligence information to the
Ugandans beyond the one referred to in the U.S. memo and whether the
relationship continues. (The organization didn't respond to this
specific question either. Similarly, The State Department didn't respond
to a question about whether a U.S. NGO was authorized to share
intelligence information with Ugandan authorities leading to arrests). 

 
Some legal experts say Invisible Children may be exposed to liability from the people arrested as a result of the tip to Ugandan authorities.


According
to Invisible Children's PR plan to promote armed operations against the
LRA outlined in the memos, Ugandan officials and 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 in Uganda, beginning in October, 2011).  
 
Critics
contend Invisible Children, by actively engaging in intelligence work
for the Ugandan authorities and then promoting the regime's military
approach through campaigns such as "Kony2012" -- part one and "Beyond Kony"
the sequel
released last week
-- shouldn't be entitled to its
not-for-profit status. The U.S. embassy memos now provide more insight
into the working relations between Invisible Children, the Ugandan
authorities and the U.S. government -- dating to the George W. Bush
administration.  
 
The memos highlight an August 10, 2007
meeting in which Invisible Children's CEO, Ben Keesey, met in Uganda with
then U.S. ambassador Steven Browning "...to update the Ambassador on
their activities and to describe their efforts to provide to their
audiences timely information on conditions in northern Uganda."


Invisible
Children's current alliance with the Ugandan authorities began after
the AFRICOM-assisted military maneuver against the LRA in Congo,
code-named Operation Lightning Thunder (OLT), which was a turning point
in the war between Museveni's army the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces
(UPDF) and the LRA.
 
OLT was conducted with the Ugandan
military's heaviest weapons -- the U.S. fueled helicopters to the tune
of $1 million dollars, and, the mission itself was conducted
with logistical support and intelligence from the U.S. army. After
Kony's delays in signing a final agreement Gen. Museveni ordered what would be a disastrous
military assault, after receiving a nod from Washington.
 
OLT
failed to neutralize Kony; instead, attacks against civilians resumed,
with over one-thousand Congolese civilians slaughtered in reprisal
attacks, as the LRA was pushed into the Central African Republic
(CAR). Hoping to reverse the negative publicity, the Museveni regime,
with U.S. knowledge, teamed up with Congo to launch a public relations
blitz to influence journalists, human rights organizations and other
governments. Invisible Children played a role in the campaign,
culminating with Kony2012.  

 
"The Government of Uganda (GOU)
will deliver to Kabila a coordination and outreach strategy designed to
enhance the delivery of accurate, timely information by allied
governments to journalists, domestic audiences, and international human
rights groups," then U.S. ambassador Steven Browning wrote in a
confidential memo dated February 25, 2009, referring to Congo's
President Joseph Kabila. "Invisible Children, a U.S.-based
non-governmental organization, is planning pro-OLT events under the
theme 'Kony Must Be Stopped. Rescue Our Children.' We expect the GOU to
start a more coordinated communications strategy in the near future,"
the ambassador added.


The
memo also revealed that Gen. Museveni and Kabila were to sign a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which would authorize the extension of
OLT indefinitely, although it would be reviewable every three months.
 

Ambassador
Browning's writings also revealed that Congo didn't trust Uganda's army
inside Congo. After all, in 2005, the International Court of Justice
(ICJ) had found Uganda liable of what amounted to war crimes -- plunder,
mass rapes and massacres -- when Uganda occupied parts of Congo from
1997 to 2003 and awarded Congo $10 billion.
(Museveni possibly feared an indictment by the International Criminal Court. The Wall Street Journal reported on June 8, 2006 that he contacted then Secretary General Kofi Annan and asked him to block an ICC investigation).

"Uganda will
commit to not plundering any Congolese resources," Ambassador Browning
wrote, and added, referring to Kangumba Adyeri, a Uganda foreign
ministry official, "Ambassador Kangumba said that this issue remains a
sore point for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda is
willing to sign the pledge because it has no intention of repeating its
behavior during the Congolese civil war." This is a remarkable
acknowledgment of guilt by Kangumba Adyeri for the years of atrocities
Uganda committed in Congo with complete impunity.  
 
While the
ambassador's memo reveals Invisible Children's involvement in the
pro-OLT campaign, a memo by another U.S. official documents the
organization's collaboration with Ugandan intelligence services.  

 
The
memo is dated June 11, 2009, and written by Kathleen FitzGibbon, a
political affairs officer at the U.S. embassy, which echoes claims by
the Museveni regime about a conspiracy against his government. The memo
-- which reads like something which could easily have been written by
the Ugandan authorities themselves -- detailed accusations that some
Ugandans living in the U.S. backed insurgencies.


Under
the subject, "UGANDA: GAMES THE ACHOLI DIASPORA CONTINUE TO PLAY,"
FitzGibbon in the June 11, 2009 memo wrote: "The Ugandan Government is
investigating the latest attempt by Acholi Diaspora to mobilize support
for a new rebellion in northern Uganda. The arrest of low level
participants continues while the Government decides its next steps,
which may include a public outing of Acholi Diaspora spoilers."  
 
"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 Komakech," FitzGibbon added. "He was wanted by
the security services for impersonating LRA leaders to extort money from
government officials, NGOs, and Acholi leaders. Komakech is purportedly
a former child soldier abducted by the LRA. Invisible Children had
featured him in its documentaries. Invisible Children reported that
Komakech 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 Komakech on March 5."  

 
As a result of
the tip from WikiLeaks, the Ugandan military claimed it obtained the
names of other suspects from Komakech. The Ugandan military then
conducted a sweep and arrested many suspects, many of whom later
declared their innocence, according to Uganda media reports. Torture of arrested suspects by Uganda security forces is routine , human rights agencies report

The New Vision, Uganda's government newspaper on June 16, 2009 reported on charges against several suspects for allegedly plotting to form a new rebel outfit, including a Patrick Komakech, who was presumably the same individual mentioned in the U.S. memo. His whereabouts and those of the others mentioned in the government newspaper's report isn't determined.

The
FitzGibbon memo makes it clear that the Ugandan authorities also wanted
to implicate Bishop John Baptist Odama, an opponent of a military
approach to ending the conflict.

Referring to then Gulu District
Resident Commissioner, Col. Walter Ochora, now deceased, FitzGibbon
wrote: "Ochora reported that Bishop Odama, a prominent and
well-respected Acholi religious leader, had been implicated as funding
airtime for both the LRA and the new organization. In addition, Odama
allegedly had harbored some of the group's members. The Government is
considering its options on Odama."
 
 
Yet, the FitzGibbon memo
also notes the need for caution, noting there could be credibility
issues with the information provided by the Ugandan authorities.
"Several sources outside the security services say that various
Government officials may be overplaying the level of threat posed by the
rebel group for their own interests. They claim the group is still in
its formative stages," FitzGibbon wrote. "However, its existence
reinforces a widely-held belief within the southern-based government
'that the Acholi will never surrender,' which in turn reinforces
government suspicions about the north and Ugandan exiles."  
 
It
seems clear that U.S. officials did not heed this suggestion to exercise
skepticism and instead the U.S. has adopted Uganda's and Invisible
Children's preferred solutions. Invisible Children is too
compromised and corrupted; it can't produce a helpful film about the
Ugandan calamity showing both the LRA's -- and the Museveni regime's
even larger role in the bloodshed.  
 
In the Kony2012 sequel,
more Ugandan faces are shown, as if that would itself exonerate
Invisible Children for essentially producing a propaganda piece for the
Museveni regime. (In a devious but ineffective attempt at spin, Uganda's appointed prime minister
Amama Mbabazi recently posted on YouTube a "mild" criticism of
Kony2012, when in fact the regime has worked all along with Invisible
Children).  

 
Norbert Mao, and Jolly Okot, are both featured in
the Kony2012 sequel, with Okot more frequently. While Okot, who is also a
former victim of LRA atrocities lends credibility to Kony2012,
nevertheless she is a senior executive of Invisible Children in Uganda.
While both Mao and Okot seek an end to the conflict, they are also early
supporters of the military approach, as revealed in the earlier
WikiLeaks memo by ambassador Browning on February 25, 2009.  

 
"Meanwhile,
domestic support for the operation is high," Browning  wrote, referring
to OLT. "Jolly Okot, Invisible Children's Gulu Office Director, informed
us that the San Diego-based non-governmental organization is planning a
worldwide campaign day in support of OLT on April 24, Okot said that
the theme is: 'Kony Must Be Stopped. Rescue Our Children' and was
developed after consultations in all of the LRA-affected areas of
northern Uganda. Gulu District Chairman Norbert Mao will honcho the
events. Part of the campaign will include a visit to key policymakers
and lawmakers in Washington by Mao, Resident District Commissioner
Walter Ochora, and Acholi Paramount Chief Rwot Acana. Events will be
held in major cities in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and
Mexico."
 
 
According
to the memo, a Ugandan official, Walter Ochora -- now deceased -- said
members of parliament from the war affected region of Acholi, such as
Reagan Okumu, who opposed military operations had "been quieted down
after visits to their constituencies revealed that they were out-of-step
with the voters."  
 
On the other hand, FitzGibbon, the
political affairs officer in her own memo wrote that the same Ugandan
official, Ochora "reported that Bishop Odama, a prominent and
well-respected Acholi religious leader, had been implicated as funding
airtime for both the LRA and the new organization. In addition, Odama
allegedly had harbored some of the group's members. The Government is
considering its options on Odama."
 
 
Odama is one of the most
revered church leaders in Uganda and while a staunch opponent of the LRA
has lobbied hard for a negotiated resolution, even risking his life in
attempting mediation.  
 
Mao, who is now president of the
Democratic Party, one of Uganda's opposition parties, disputes the former
U.S. ambassador's characterization of his position. "I did not support
OLT," Mao said, in a strongly-worded statement to The Black Star News.
"It was an operation to rain bombs in the areas where Kony was believed
to be participating and would lead to indiscriminate killing of those
the operation was intended to rescue. But even so, I believe there is no
purely military solution to the LRA issue. Even after the release of
Kony 2012 I stated clearly that the doors to peaceful solutions must
never be closed." 
 
"But perhaps more importantly I met
Ambassador Browning and shared my views on OLT. But I guess he wanted
Washington to think a certain way or those in Washington wanted him to
present that kind of supportive evidence," he added.

 
"On the
2009 events in DC I did not participate. I knew about it and I was
briefed about it. The goal was clear - the world cannot continue with
business as usual when thousands of abducted children are with the LRA,"
Mao added, noting that he did attend an earlier event paid for by
Invisible Children in 2007 (see complete statement). 
 
He said he
did "know the power of such activism because that is what pushed George
Bush to appoint Tim Shortley as an envoy to the Juba talks. When he did
we could not believe it because initially the US was very lukewarm
about the talks." 
 
The Juba talks ended with the ill-fated OLT.  
 
"What
killed the talks was that deep down in his psyche, Museveni wants a
military solution," Mao added. His belief that he is a reincarnation of
the Chwezi conquerors cannot allow him to rest until he has humiliated
the Luo (Acholi) who toppled the Chwezi rulers." (The Chwezi are
variously referred to as an empire that may have been real or mythical
who lasted until the 16th Century until the invasion of Luo people). 

 
The
U.S. collaboration with Gen. Museveni's army -- found liable for war
crimes in the Congo by the International Court of Justice in 2005 --
insulates Uganda's dictator and his military commanders, at least for
the time being, from prosecution.
 
It also diverts news
attention from the fact that Gen. Museveni is fighting for his own
political survival in Uganda, as opposition politicians who claim he stole
the last presidential election continue their mass protests in Kampala,
the capital. This week the regime banned protests by activists.
 
In return for the license granted him by Western
powers, Museveni has contributed thousands of Ugandan soldiers -- some
of whom may have participated in the war crimes in Congo and in Uganda
-- for the U.S.-backed mission to stabilize Somalia, which, Washington
fears, will become a haven for Al Qaeda. 
 
At the same time, the
U.S. also gets to maintain and expand its military presence in the oil
and resource rich regions of Uganda, South Sudan, Congo and Central
Africa. In this way, the U.S. is building leverage to check China's
aggressive search for energy in the same region. The government of Sudan
now must also think twice before it dares to launch a full-scale
invasion of U.S.-backed, oil-rich, South Sudan.
 
Kony2012 was
viewed more than 100 million times; yet it now turns out that Invisible
Children may have duped a global audience by hiding the fact that it's
been working closely with the Museveni regime all along, to the extent
that it even shared intelligence leading to arrests of perceived or
alleged regime opponents.



"Speaking Truth To Empower."


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