'Simplistic' Kony Viral Video Under Fire

A viral video calling for the arrest of a brutal central African rebel leader has come under fire from critics who say it misrepresents the complicated history of the continent's longest-running conflict.

The film, part of a campaign by the charity Invisible Children to make Ugandan militia leader Joseph Kony a household name, has received enormous attention on social media after a string of celebrities promoted the issue.

By Friday evening the 30-minute video had received more than 57 million hits on YouTube.

But critics said the video glosses over a complicated history that made it possible for Kony to rise to the notoriety he has today.

They also lamented that the video does not inform viewers that Kony originally was waging war against Uganda's army, whose own human rights record has been condemned as brutal by independent observers.

"There is no historical context. It's more like a fashion thing," said Timothy Kalyegira, a social critic in Uganda.

Thousands of comments have been posted on the YouTube video but not all are supportive of its aims, with many pointing to recent oil discoveries in Uganda as a pretext for US interests.

Sceptics have voiced concern that it is part of the Obama administration's promised use of "smart power", as promoted recently by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton .

Time magazine describes smart power as: "The use of everything from public diplomacy and new media to development aid and public-private collaboration to protect and advance US interests abroad in ways America's military power cannot."

The film has also come under fire because it did not use recent footage from northern Uganda.

Footage in the film was apparently shot eight years ago and is considered not reflective of the current situation, as many refugees have returned home recently.

Scrutiny has also been raised on Invisible Children's filed accounts as the US charity spent \$751,000 (£479,000) on computer equipment in 2011.

It spent \$1.9m (£1.1m) on travel and filmmaking last year - out of total expenses of \$8.9m (£5.6m).

Kony's brutal Lord's Resistance Army began its attacks in Uganda in the 1980s, when Kony sought to overthrow the government.

After being pushed out of Uganda several years ago, the LRA has terrorised villages in Congo, the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

The group takes young women into sexual slavery and forces children to commit heinous attacks. It previously forced thousands of children to become child soldiers.

In the years when Kony's men roamed northern Uganda, the Ugandan government was often accused of failing to do enough to capture or kill Kony, with some government investigations showing that army officers profiteered from a protracted war.

Invisible Children said in a statement posted on its website that it does not defend any of the human rights abuses committed by the Ugandan government.

But it said: "The only feasible and proper way to stop Kony and protect the civilians he targets is to coordinate efforts with regional governments."

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