Kony 2012 screening in Uganda results in anger, rocks thrown at screen

[Video Link to Al Jazeera report]

Invisible Children's "Kony 2012" video has been viewed by millions online around the world. By view counts alone, it is now the most viral video in history. It is now the first ever YouTube hit publicly screened in the northern Ugandan town of Lira—and it didn't go so well.

The screening was hosted by African Youth Initiative Network (AYINET), an NGO founded by Victor Ochen (LRA abductee turned peacekeeper) mentioned in this previous Boing Boing post. Ochen and AYINET thought Ugandans who had been personally affected by the LRA and Kony deserved an opportunity to see what all the fuss was about.

Ugandan journalist Rosebell Kagumire attended the AYINET screening of Kony 2012 last night, and tweeted that local radio stations heavily publicized the event in advance. "There were 5000+ people at the screening," she says, "Many rode bicycles from villages to see the #kony2012 video in Lira."

Malcolm Webb attended the event in the Mayor’s Gardens in the city center, and he reports for Al Jazeera:

Having heard so many great things about the film, the crowd’s expectations were high. People I spoke to anticipated seeing a video that showed the world the terrible atrocities that they had suffered during the conflict, and the ongoing struggles they still face trying to rebuild their lives after two lost decades.

The audience was at first puzzled to see the narrative lead by an American man – Jason Russell – and his young son. Towards the end of the film, the mood turned more to anger at what many people saw as a foreign, inaccurate account that belittled and commercialised their suffering, as the film promotes Kony bracelets and other fundraising merchandise, with the aim of making Kony infamous.

One woman I spoke to made the comparison of selling Osama Bin Laden paraphernalia post 9/11 – likely to be highly offensive to many Americans, however well intentioned the campaign behind it. The event ended with the angrier members of the audience throwing rocks and shouting abusive criticism, as the rest fled for safety, leaving an abandoned projector, with organisers and the press running for cover until the dust settled.

Kagumire adds this morning that AYINET has suspended further screenings, "not to further harm victims or provoke any violent response."

AYINET has published a statement on the screening here.

Invisible Children's bracelets and t-shirts aren't likely to receive a warm welcome in Uganda, either. Kagumire says "The Northern Ugandan people want the government to stop Kony 2012 tshirts from entering the country; the video sparked heated talks on 5 radio stations in Lira... one caller said #kony2012 t-shirts cannot cross Karuma. It would be too provocative."

Read more of Al Jazeera's report here, and follow Al Jazeera's reporting on the Kony 2012 phenomenon here.

(via @somebadideas)


  1. re: “One woman I spoke to made the comparison of selling Osama Bin Laden paraphernalia post 9/11”

    I hadn’t thought of it that way – but she is totally right. I’ve only seen a few excerpts from the film, but what I saw didn’t prompt me to watch more. Now I know who this guy is. Great. When I come to power I will send in SEAL Team 6 after him.

    There was one Osama paraphernalia that sold like hot cakes after 9/11 – targets.

    1. Depends on the context.  These KONY posters are more like “Most Wanted” and “Public Enemy #1” posters than they are “yay Kony!” posters.

      And by the same token, people who dismiss Kony2012 also say that one man isn’t a problem and that killing him means nothing seem to forget the celebration when Osama was killed.

      No one believes killing one man can change the world, but it’s a symbolic victory that shouldn’t be underestimated.

      1. No one believes killing one man can change the world, but it’s a symbolic victory that shouldn’t be underestimated.

        That’s some scary philosophy you’ve got going on there.

        1. Because I’m noting people would be happy he was dead?  Don’t confuse my saying that as an admission that I’d be one of the ones celebrating.  We have bigger issues than Kony and dancing in the street at someone’s death isn’t my thing, even if they were a monster.

          All I’m saying is, if/when he’s killed, there will be news footage of the people he terrorized for years thrilled that he’s gone.  It will be celebrated as a victory, even if he’s replaced immediately by another.  I’m not sure how suggesting that is a dangerous philosophy when we’ve seen it happen many times this year already, and I’m not commenting on it being right or wrong, just that it will happen.

      2. So you’re saying a symbolic victory is better than no victory at all? Take ’em where you find ’em, I guess.

        1. That’s exactly what I’m saying. I think that there’d be plenty of people in Uganda who would celebrate his death, regardless of how influential he might be at this moment. He’s destroyed a lot of lives.

          Don’t misunderstand me by saying I’m sitting here waiting for the day Kony is killed so I can can celebrate. Or that celebrating the death of anyone, even a murderer, is a particularly right or human thing to do, because I actually don’t think that it is. And further, I think there are more pressing world issues beyond Uganda actually. I’m just noting that I think you’d have a lot of happy people if he was killed.

          1. So, if a symbolic victory is enough, why even kill anybody? As long as the real world is defined by imaginary actions, I mean, and yes, I’m saying that symbolism is imaginary.

          2. Whoa, where did I say a symbolic victory was enough?  I specifically said killing him wouldn’t change anything in the real world, but it would mean something to the people he has wronged, and perhaps re-energize the movement further.   

            And of course symbolism is imaginary, that’s kind of how it works.  But if he had killed someone you loved, you’d probably want him dead, too, and when it happened, I bet it’d feel like justice to you, even if you knew there was someone waiting to take his place.

        2. It’s somewhat encouraging, EH, that you made a point of reassuring us of your seriousness when you said that “symbolism is imaginary”, because at least it shows that you recognize it as likely being perceived as fundamentally wrong. Which it is. It is demonstrably, objectively incorrect.

    2. I don’t think that’s an accurate analogy. Invisible Children is trying to bring awareness to someone that no one knew about – whereas Osama Bin Laden was well-known. It sounds to me like whoever hosted the screening should have provided more context before and after so that the locals would understand the perspective – it sounds like they misunderstood it to mean that we’re celebrating him over here or something. They are failing to realize that the means of presentation and tools for communication/commercialization were designed to reach a specific audience – an audience that reacted by the millions, meaning their tactics clearly worked. It’s unfortunate that this now sounds like another issue Invisible Children will have to handle on the ground to win back their local support. 

      1. I  know, right? I held an Adolf Hitler themed cake sale to help holocaust survivors and can you believe some people were soooo off-brand they found it offensive? When will these people learn that they weren’t the intended target for my branding and so had no right to get offended?

        Seriously, do you even read what you type?

      2. you’re so right.  osama bin laden was so well-known before 9/11.  everyone saw it coming! 

        so you’re saying you wish prior 9/11 we should have all worn osama bin laden t-shirts supplied by anti-taliban afghanistan organizations, then a tragedy could have been prevented.  good thinking elle!

        1. i think this comment is really unnecessarily mean. even if you disagree, at least she’s trying to work through the problem using alternate perspectives…

      3.  “were designed to reach a specific audience”

        They intended the video to go viral. You can have that, or you can control who your audience is, but you can’t do both.

    1. Who said anything about a movie theater? Did you really think northern Uganda has an indoor venue capable of seating over 5000 people?

      1. You never know when Foo Fighters is going to just pop by and do an impromptu concert right?

      1. I went ahead and checked out #thirdworldproblems on twitter and found that about half were people trying to say #firstworldproblems and screwing it up, but there were a few good ones too.

  2. This makes a compelling headline, but the Ugandans were not the intended audience.  It was made to help members of other countries, unfamiliar with the situation, to make them aware of the atrocities and ask for their support.  If the Ugandans were told it was a documentary, of course they were disappointed.

    1. It was made to help members of other countries, unfamiliar with the situation…

      Also made by said people.

    2. Looking at I.C.’s financial statements, it looks like it was made to keep getting lots of cash for an organization that doesn’t seem to be doing much apart from making videos and *existing* as a charity/evangelical organization, or vanity project.

      1: Who am I?

      I am a rebel soul: dream evangelist. I am obsessed with people. I tell stories by making inspiring movies that move people’s emotions, and then I take those emotions and transform them into action. My middle name is Radical. I married my best friend. We have known each other since we were six and seven. I have a three-year-old boy named Gavin Danger & a one-year-old girl named Everley Darling. I truly believe I am the luckiest person on earth because of my family, friends and the ability to go to a dream factory every day for work.

      3: Where are you from and where are you going?

      I am from San Diego California with an upbringing in musical theater. I am going to help end the longest running war in Africa, get Joseph Kony arrested & redefine international justice. Then I am going to direct a Hollywood musical. Then I am going to study theology & literature in Oxford, England, and then move to New York to start “The Academy” – which will be a school where the best creative young minds in the world attend.

      4: Who is your biggest hero?

      If Oprah, Steven Spielberg and Bono had a baby, I would be that baby.

      9: Who is your favorite comic book superhero?

      Peter Pan.

      1. Yeah, after the video convinced me to donate I found out about their questionable financials.  But I still believe the overarching goals of the organization are good, even if they need to cut back on unnecessary expenses.  Without their efforts, I would not have known about Kony.

        1. Go through Xeni’s series of posts on this and you can find some charities that come better recommended. 

        2. Without their efforts, I would not have known about Kony.

          And….?  When did “keeping first worlders informed” become a meaningful charitable goal?

      2.  Ah, but I’d wager the musical would be about his experiences liberating Africa through his “dream factory”.

    3. Uh…. sit down, shut up, you are just to real to sell to USians. Oh and, good luck seeing much from the money we’re making!

      Hey, you know what is better than watching a Ugandan themed puppet theater? Talking to a Ugandan.  Maybe you should listen to what the people are saying in that video. They’re not saying that it is subtly inaccurate. They’re saying it’s outright offensive.

    4. “Ugandans were not the intended audience”

      Ungh, why can’t they just shut up and let us tell them how to rebuild their infrastruture!

    5. “It was made to help members of other countries, unfamiliar with the situation, to make them aware of the atrocities and ask for their support.”

      And to make said people feel good about themselves for paying attention for a little bit. 

    1. Funny enough, I was thinking “unless it’s Wil Smith” before I clicked on the link.  Hollywood sucks.

    1. If the choice is between some white kids and no one, wonder if the tune changes.

      I’m not going to defend IC any further than to say the rumors of their sketchiness are greatly exaggerated.  There are certainly better charities, ones that deal directly in aiding Uganda, but lets be honest: That wasn’t the point of the KONY campaign and those other, better charities haven’t come up with a way to engage the national interest.  No one cares about those charities because they haven’t found a way to reach the pop obsessed culture at large here in America.
      Sad but true, Americans don’t care unless you make things slick and shiny.  Hard to fault IC for recognizing that and capitalizing on it to spread their message.

      1. “If the choice is between some white kids and no one, wonder if the tune changes.”

        Except that your dichotomy is laughably stupid.

        1. So everyone would prefer no one helping Uganda over KONY?  That was my question.  

          IC isn’t perfect, but it’s something.  Enjoy your alarmist bullshit, soon enough youl’l see that Uganda isn’t going to get worse because IC made a video and actually made the situation over there an issue Americans are aware of.

  3. The Kony video is an excellent piece of advertising. It’s simplified so everyone can understand it and relate to it, it pulls all the right emotional strings, it focuses on a single issue, it targets a particular audience, it has a simple call to action. Showing it to anyone else, or out of context, won’t work (of course!). 

    Like showing the breast cancer awareness ‘Save the boobs’ video to a large crowd of breast cancer survivors. They are likely to get angry, upset and offended – even though the video itself might be quite effective at rising awareness amongst its intended audience and achieve greater donations than if a more realistic, complex and correct video had been used.

    So, no surprises there…

    1. This actually has the capacity to do worse for Ugandans than the anti-abortion charity Komen did for women.

      1. My friend…are you being sarcastic? 

        What did Susan G. Komen do to women by pulling their grant to Planned Parenthood? What am I missing? And how is Uganda and the KONY video comparable? Please explain. 

    2.  “The Kony video is an excellent piece of advertising.”

      That’s not exactly a recommendation, if you expect something to be truthful and informative.

      1. It wasn’t a recommendation. :)  .. by ‘excellent piece of advertising’ I meant ‘effective, well produced, put together, simple in its storyline, in a language that the intended audience will feel an emotional link, and with a clear path to action at the end’.

        If you want truth and information, you turn to documentaries, reports or investigative pieces. Their purpose is to inform. But if you want people to take action, you turn to advertising (/propaganda).

        The truth is complex and often fails to establish a link to the larger audience. (Why should I care about some conflict in Africa?). Advertising picks the facts that will help create an emotional link to the audience (a cute little american child and his black friend), and asks something of you. A Call To Action. In advertising, facts have less priority than mobilizing people.

        So I stand by my earlier statement: it’s a great piece of advertising.

  4. Seeing real people’s reactions is good though.  If this all ends up with people able to take some control of this larger voice for themselves then it will be actually very inspiring. 

  5. lol.  I.C. took down their “Get Everything Pack + Limited Edition Peace and Action Necklace” for $2,500.”


    But you can still see it referenced on other sites:

    Invisible Children posted a nearly 30-minute video only four days ago that has taken the social media world by storm. The first goal of the nonprofit is to bring awareness to Kony, leader of the rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), who has been committing atrocities in Uganda and central Africa for more than 20 years. After watching the video, viewers are directed to the Invisible Children website to purchase t-shirts, bracelets and posters in support of the cause. Those who are really inspired can even purchase a “Get Everything Pack + Limited Edition Peace and Action Necklace” for $2,500. After gearing up, Invisible Children asks supporters to message “Culturemakers” like Tim Tebow and Lady GaGa and “Policymakers” such as Condoleezza Rice and Mitt Romney. Many celebrities have already been inspired to participate, with Ryan Seacrest tweeting, “Was going to sleep last night and saw ur tweets about#StopKony…watched in bed, was blown away. If u haven’t seen yet.”


  6. I’m not for Kony video.  I’ve followed the situation in Africa for sometime.  The people who fell for the Kony Video don’t understand that removing one bad man is not going to keep other bad men from stepping up.  Its very much the devil you know in some places.

    However, showing Ugandans  a video that has been tailored for north americian tastes will of course enrage or confused them!  Its a dark world they live in and we don’t understand that.  It’d be like showing the videos of the war drums being beaten pre-Iraq war to Iraqis.  Of course its going to piss them off.

    Kony 2012 is a marketing video.  It contains product placement and a soft easy to digest message offering a way for people to feel good.  Its no different than a 30 minute chocolate bar commercial.

    1. “The people who fell for the Kony Video don’t understand that removing one bad man is not going to keep other bad men from stepping up.”

      Ergo, we shouldn’t bother removing any of them. Excellent.

      As someone who “fell” for the video, I think I pretty clearly understand that, upon taking out Kony, there might be other Bad People still in the world. I even went to scool before.

      1. Right, killing one man can’t stop a situation like what’s happening over there, but lets not forget how everyone rejoiced when Osama was killed.  He’s a symbol and his death will be celebrated.

        If IC’s pressure on this issue leads to more American involvement and the eventual kill/capture of Joseph Kony, I wonder if the Ugandan people would look upon the campaign a bit more favorably?

        1.  Agreed. You have to “start” some place, and this bloody video has got more people learning about the situation than any other. And if / when Kony is knocked out, there will be other things / people / situations to work on.

          All this “oh my god just *look* at IC’s completely transparent financial statements!” and “how *dare* you foreign dogs try to help poor Africa” crap is … well, crap.

          1. Yes or no: People in Uganda would celebrate Kony’s death?

            My “simplistic” point is that, while Kony is just one man, his death would be a symbolic victory, and those can be very powerful.

          2. “while Kony is just one man, his death would be a symbolic victory, and those can be very powerful.”

            We would be empowering Uganda’s army in his absence, so it would not be powerful as you believe it would.

        2. Actually, not everyone “rejoiced“.  Our dear chancellor got rightfully some flak because  she expressed joy about the killing – yes, I do no consider it murder – of Osama.

      2. “Ergo, we shouldn’t bother removing any of them. Excellent.”

        You miss the point. We’re replacing religious zealot murderer rapists with well-financed religious zealot murderer rapist conscriptionists.

      3. “Ergo, we shouldn’t bother removing any of them. Excellent.”

        your logical fallacy, not his.

      4. Removing one bad guy or even 100 bad guys won’t really change the situation in that part of Africa (which, btw, is not Uganda).  What is needed is to train a competent, effective and uncorrupt law enforcement in the region.

        Easier said than done, but unlike killing Kony, will bring stability to the region

    2. There used to be this really weird televangelist named Jan something. She looked like three Tammy Faye Bakker impersonators got caught in a transporter accident. Her thing was to raise money to buy dolls and then go around the world filming herself giving dolls to poor children. So there’d be week after week of her handing out baby dolls to starving children who would just stare at her like “WTF, lady? Do you have any food under that wig?”

  7. As someone else said, these people weren’t the target audience. It wasn’t designed to motivate people in Africa to do something. They know damned well what is going on already. It is designed to get other people in the world to step in and do something that these people apparently are unable to do for themselves. 

    And if you read the article, you will know that the reason they were angry wasn’t because it was “white people trying to save them”. It wasn’t because they think the information was inaccurate. It was because the film is geared towards an entirely different culture that they don’t understand. 

    1. The target audience is a pretty mine factor in the whole situation – you’re missing the point, but there’s plenty of criticism of the campaign, the organisation and the motives – start there.

    2. “the reason they were angry wasn’t because it was “white people trying to save them”. It wasn’t because they think the information was inaccurate. It was because the film is geared towards an entirely different culture that they don’t understand. ”

      Actually that’s entirely the fucking point of the outrage. The latter sentence is particularly nasty.

    3. What? Seriously?
      The people in the video above were undeniably saying they are angry at the inaccuracy of the information, and at the attitudes of white cultures trying to “save” them. Dealing with colonialist bullshit (like yours!) is not something they “don’t understand”, and it’s extremely priveleged of you to think otherwise.

  8. To those of you saying things along the lines of, “Of course they’re angry, it’s not FOR them”: Americans have enough things that are made for them. This charity is supposed to be working on behalf of the oppressed peoples in Uganda and other places in Africa, but instead they’re over-producing a sanitized propaganda message for Americans to feel like they can “make a difference!” This is too much catering to American sensibilities. Help these people in a real, tangible way, rather than feeding an evangelical American money machine.

    1. So you’d rather IC create a video for Ugandans to do what, exactly?  Explain who Kony is?  Money is a vehicle to help people in a “real, tangible way” and millions are being donated as a result of the video.

      1. “Money is a vehicle to help people in a “real, tangible way”

        Welcome to every idiot who funds warlords in Africa.

      2. No, I’d rather groups like IC made videos promoting Ugandan organizations like Hope North that are responding to problems that currently exist in ways that actually address the needs of people as they express them.

    2. And how do you suppose the average person does this? When you come up with an answer that has no trace of gimmic in it and you are able to make it just as successful as IC’s Kony2012 campaing let me know.

      1. The average person should be discerning enough to put their money into a more transparent operation where less of it will go toward administrative costs (those are necessary, but not to the extent that IC tries to justify them). There must always be marketing, to a degree; but IC overuses it and overspends on it, to an egregious degree–if generating more money for IC is the goal, then you can call it a success, I suppose–but I think we have different measures of success, mine being the extent to which Ugandans are supported.

  9. Thanks for posting this Xeni. 

    As for the folks who say “At least people are finding out about Kony now, so there’s some good coming from this…” I reply:

    Where were you all when TONS of other people were telling you’all about him in the nineties?

    And where were you’all when Roméo Dallaire was pleading with the UN to send troops to Rwanda at around the same time, to stop the massacre there?

    And where were you’all when the East Timorese were being massacred?

    Stop buying polluting silicon rubber bracelets to assuage your guilt so you can then do nothing.    Instead, talk and write to your member of parliament, your congresscritter, and ask them the same questions.  Make sure you make them uncomfortable.

    1.  “Where were you all when TONS of other people were telling you’all about him in the nineties?”

      Right, right. “You weren’t engaged *then*, so what bloody right do you have to get engaged *now*?!”

      The logic … the logic …

      I might offer a helpful suggestion: A good chunk of the readership here may have only just barely joined us in the living world “in the 90s”.

        1. Engagement is a necessary condition for being informed or capable of doing good. So good on IC for opening the doors to so much more engagement, out of which we might see some informed people, capable of doing good.

          1. or, you know, some misinformed people, who then have to be set straight so they’re trying to solve the right problem. 

    2. They were little kids, so they were probably playing in sandboxes or something.  The early 1990s was 20 years ago.

  10. I guess the question is:  Does the situation in Uganda need more money or more awareness?  Plenty of good charities do the former, IC is the only one really nailing the latter.  I think there’s room for both.

  11. This shouldn’t be a trend which is becoming a trend, and people will forget about this in  1 month. They need to know the difference. 

  12. Rocks being thrown at the screen pretty much defines the difference between documentary and propaganda. 

  13. Do we *really* think the Ugandan viewers can’t  understand that the film was made for a different  audience and factor that into their opinion of it, just like we can?

  14. Frankly, they want the USA to get involved in another war and no less than a “Black president who claims he’s a Christian to take out another Black leader who claims he’s a Christian”.  IMO that’s whatever oil/new world order banking corporation that’s been promoting this wants.  Anything to distract from “Pink slime” aka put DOG FOOD in your hamburger but charge you like it was good meat.

    I don’t care about KONY.  Any time the west messes in Africa, it is for slavery or resource theft or installing a vile warlord and only increases the misery.

    Frankly, the guy in the video reminds me of the “Slick salesman/upper class elite” type who’ve in RL treated me like sh—.  Like they boast how “Social” they are or that they are “Salesmen” and you aren’t, but whatever they sell people return tomorrow, they just are good at bullying you/kissing up to spit in your face to the middle manager who’s also in their same church.

  15. Ugandans aren’t the target audience.  Presumably, they’re already aware of the problem, and pressuring their government to do something about it isn’t going to be effective.  

    The maker of this video is attempting to educate people over here on a problem he cares about (Kony) and to make something happen by spreading awareness and pressuring governments of the world’s most powerful nations.  If, in order to do this, he needs to tell the story from his own white perspective, so be it. His method of telling the story resonated wildly with the audience it was intended for. This handwringing over what local Ugandans think is (in my opinion) misplaced and counter productive.

    1. This handwringing over what local Ugandans think is (in my opinion) misplaced and counter productive.

      When you think that the opinions of the people who are actually affected is irrelevant, you have left the path of reason.

  16. To the majority of people who have commented on this thread- I would say well done. You’ve all done a fabulous job solving the ills of the world and proving that your grasp on the conflicts and complexities in the region are superior t0 others. Your understanding of the Ugandan culture is heads above the rest, and you score particularly high in the areas of arrogant, dismissive comments and intellectual superiority. For people who likely view yourselves as thoughtful open- minded individuals, I would say you are far closer to those you criticize than you would prefer. 

    Here are a few questions I have- Why waste your time and energy on an organization that you think is so intrinsically flawed? What are you doing outside of this space to effect change for good in your communities?

    1. A lot of us are activists. I’ve been on the board of three non-profits in the last ten years. Our experiences are why we’re calling bullshit on this.

      1. I think that’s great and I have no issue with calling bullshit on this- it’s important. My issue was simply with some of the people on the thread who so quickly and arrogantly dismiss others with no substantial follow up. You have a lot of people who want more information and I think there have been some missed opportunities. I’m assuming here, but the reason many people are weighing in on this topic is because they care on some level? If that’s the case- let’s spend more time patiently and respectfully dialoguing.

  17. I think that something we can all draw from the reaction of the Ugandans, is that none of us really know what we’re talking about when we talk about KONY or Uganda. 

  18. I think screening the film in Uganda was not the best decision. I understand the thinking and I also understand the outrage. But the outrage doesn’t mean the film is without merit. We need to be very aware of culture in the context of story telling. Ugandans want their story told and were hoping this was going to do that. That would have felt like a form of justice in the midst of something so horrific (particularly when Kony is still on the loose). It makes perfect sense that seeing this film was outrageous to a lot of people. I think a lot of the backlash is a result of cultural difference, misunderstanding, and just plain shock with the audacity of American Hollywood culture. 

    1. If you think that showing a “documentary” to its subjects is a bad idea, there’s something massively and horribly wrong with the film. Your attitude is vilely patronizing toward Ugandans.

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