[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."
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."