nvisible 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.
A memo written by a public affairs officer at the US embassy in Uganda documents Invisible Children’s collaboration with Ugandan intelligence services. It notes that the US-based NGO tipped the Ugandan government on the whereabouts of Patrick Komakech, a former child soldier for the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), who was wanted by security officials for extorting money from the government officials, NGO’s and local tribal leaders. Ugandan security organizations jumped the tip and immediately arrested Komakech.
As a result of the tip, the Ugandan military claimed it obtained the names of other suspects from Komakech. The military then conducted a sweep and arrested a number of people, many of whom declared their innocence, the Ugandan media reported. Human rights groups say torture of arrested suspects by Ugandan security forces is routine.
Invisible Children also actively supported Operation Lightning Thunder (OLT), a joint attack by Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the then-autonomous South Sudan against the LRA. The operation, which was also received US intelligence and logistical backing, killed more civilians than LRA militants.
In a confidential memo dating back to 2009, US ambassador to Uganda Steven Browning noted that the US-based NGO planned pro-OLT events under the theme “Kony Must Be Stopped. Rescue Our Children”.
See also: The White Savior Industrial Complex