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LRA slams Kony video as act of deception

By Moni Basu, CNN
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Fri April 6, 2012
Militant leader Joseph Kony, shown in a 2006 photo, is the subject of the viral video
Militant leader Joseph Kony, shown in a 2006 photo, is the subject of the viral video "Kony 2012"
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The LRA issues an 18-page statement obtained for CNN by a respected journalist
  • It calls Invisible Children, which produced the video, a front organization for Washington
  • The video went viral and made Joseph Kony a household name
  • A sequel released Thursday addresses some of the criticisms of "Kony 2012"

(CNN) -- The Lord's Resistance Army slammed "Kony 2012" as a "clear act of malevolent deception and manipulation of world mass consciousness" in an 18-page statement believed to be its first response to the viral video spotlighting the renegade group and its leader, warlord Joseph Kony.

"Behind 'Kony 2012' lurks the U.S.A., which is not a 'banana republic' state, but a world hegemonic power that runs a vast global network of war, intelligence and security institutions, and a myriad of their humanitarian front and service organizations," said the statement signed by Justine Labeja, a spokesman for Kony's organization known commonly by its acronym, LRA.

Invisible Children, the San Diego-based activist group that launched the "Kony 2012" campaign, is one of those front organizations, the LRA charged.

CNN obtained the statement, issued Wednesday, through journalist Frank Nyakairu, who passed it on along with the e-mail he received it in. He said it was sent to him from LRA representatives in Nairobi, Kenya, who have been quoted in international news media. Nyakairu is respected internationally for his coverage of the LRA.

"Kony 2012" has drawn criticism from many corners but this was the first reaction from LRA.

The video laid out the LRA's alleged atrocities over more than two decades -- killing and maiming villagers, recruiting boys to become soldiers and forcing girls into sexual slavery.

Thursday, Invisible Children released a sequel to the original half-hour video, which was viewed by millions of people and turned Kony into a household name.

The first video became highly controversial, sparking a flurry of questions about Invisible Children's intentions, its transparency and whether the social-media frenzy was too little, too late. It also drew criticism for not highlighting alleged Ugandan military atrocities, for not saying that Kony is no longer in Uganda and is operating with a much smaller army, and for casting a spotlight that might make it harder to capture him.

The sequel, "Beyond Famous" addresses criticism of "Kony 2012" and explains what politicians in Washington and in Africa have done in the past month.

This (new) video goes deeper. I think people will respond.
Ben Keesey, executive director of Invisible Children

"We made the first video intentionally for a young Western audience, and therefore it was a priority that the video keep their attention," said Ben Keesey, the executive director of Invisible Children. "This (new) video goes deeper. I think people will respond."

Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. The African Union said last month that it plans to deploy 5,000 troops to hunt him down in a mission assisted by 100 U.S. combat troops the Pentagon sent to the region in October.

Kony formed the LRA with the intent of overthrowing the Ugandan government. Since 2006, the LRA has migrated to remote hinterlands on the borders of the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It has been on the run since being scattered from a temporary base in Congolese territory by a botched 2008 U.S.-backed attack on Kony's position dubbed Operation Lightning Thunder.

Since then, LRA attacks have killed 2,400 people and displaced 465,000, according to Resolve Uganda, a nonprofit group that monitors LRA activity. Another 3,400 people have been abducted.

The LRA statement said Invisible Children has been used to cover up the "vile acts of the U.S.-supported military regime of Uganda in its dirty war activities."

It accused Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell, who directed video, of sanitizing the acts of the Ugandan military.

"In effect, 'Kony 2012,' whose falsehoods have now boomeranged on one of its authors and purveyors, a Mr. Jason Russell, constitute(s) the biggest ruse and the most sordid 'open air' 'sleight of the hand' act that has ever been used to deceive the gullible and the uninformed in the world," the LRA statement said.

"Millions have consequently had their intellect and minds 'pocket picked' and subjected to the most banal trickery, deception and manipulation," it said.

CNN's Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.

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