Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi launched, on Saturday, an online response to a viral campaign to arrest rebel commander Joseph Kony to counter the “false impression” that the country is in conflict.
In a video broadcast on YouTube, and in a flurry of messages posted on Twitter, Mbabazi invited 20 celebrities including Hollywood or music stars such as Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Rihanna.
“As PM (Prime Minister) of Uganda, I appreciate your interest and invite you to visit. We have peace, stability and great people” he wrote in a tweet to celebrities, using the hashtag #KonyisntinUganda.
Watch the video
The video, Kony 2012, by US advocacy group Invisible Children, has been viewed by over 80-million people worldwide since it was released online last week, with a string of celebrities tweeting links to the emotional film.
“It is particularly welcome to see so many young people uniting across barriers of nation, race, religion and culture to take a stand for justice, I salute you and I thank you,” Mbabazi said in the video.
“I extend the invitation not just to the 20 celebrities, but to you all — come and see Uganda for yourself — you will find a very different place to that portrayed by Invisible Children,” he added.
Jason Russell, the 33-year-old co-head of the online campaign, has been hospitalised after being found semi-naked and masturbating in the street in the southern Californian city of San Diego, police and his boss said on Friday.
Mbabazi, speaking to the camera in the simple broadcast filmed at his office desk, said he wanted to correct the “well intentioned” video, pointing out that “Joseph Kony is not in Uganda,” and that the country is “not in conflict”.
Kony’s ruthless rebels were infamous for mutilating civilians and abducting children to use as soldiers and sex-slaves during their two-decade war in northern Uganda.
But they have been forced out of Uganda and since 2006 have been operating in neighbouring countries.
Kony, a semi-literate former altar boy, took charge in 1988 of a rebellion among northern Uganda’s ethnic Acholi minority, to fight the Kampala government it wanted to replace by a regime based on the bible’s Ten Commandments.
He is accused by the International Criminal Court of the rape, mutilation and murder of civilians as well as forcibly recruiting child soldiers.
Regional armies launched a hunt in 2008 to capture Kony after he repeatedly refused to sign a peace deal with Uganda. But he remains at large alongside a clutch of fighters.
“We do not need a slick video on YouTube for us to take notice,” Mbabazi added. “It is a tragedy which we have been dealing with for many years, and the scars of which we Ugandans will bear for many years to come.” — AFP