Posted at 12:58 PM ET, 04/11/2012

Invisible Children tipped off Ugandan military to arrest former child soldier, says U.S. cable

A U.S. diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks says that Invisible Children, the non-profit that created the viral video “Kony 2012,” once tipped off the Ugandan military about the whereabouts of a former child soldier.


Patrick Komakech in a YouTube interview taken as he is cycling. In the interview, Komakech explains how he works to rehabilitate former child soldiers like himself. (YouTube)
Patrick Komakech, a former child soldier in the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army: led by Joseph Kony, appeared in a number of Invisible Children films. The non-profit works to end the recruitment of child soldiers.

Later, Komakech became wanted by the Ugandan government for allegedly helping form a new rebel group, Foreign Policy reports.

In a statement e-mailed to BlogPost, an Invisible Children spokeswoman confirmed that it had spoken to the Ugandan government about Komakech, but would not say whether it tipped off the government to his whereabouts.

Invisible Children did say, however, that it severed ties with Komakech at the time because he was “allegedly involved in activities that could be jeopardizing the lives of civilians and putting the organization and its staff at risk.”

The cable, sent on June 11, 2009 and released last year, describes Komakech’s involvement in a rebellion in northern Uganda organized by a rebel group called the Peoples’ Patriotic Front (PPF), which was reportedly “stockpiling weapons in the districts of West Nile.”

In early 2009, the Ugandan army arrested a number of people believed to be involved in plots by the PPF, including Komakech, according to Ugandan daily New Vision.

The U.S. cable says of Komakech’s arrest:

The latest plot was exposed when the Government received a tip from the U.S. non-governmental organization (NGO) Invisible Children regarding the location of Patrick Komekech... Invisible Children reported that Komekech had been in Nairobi and had recently reappeared in Gulu, where he was staying with the NGO. Security organizations jumped on the tip and immediately arrested Komekech on March 5. He had a satellite telephone and other gadgets, which were confiscated when security forces picked him up.

Komakech is currently facing treason charges, along with other alleged PPF members, according to Foreign Policy.

In a 2005 piece, WorldMag.com, a Christian site, provides background on Komakech’s life as a child soldier:

Patrick Komakech was a quick-witted 9-year-old living in northern Uganda when he became a soldier. [He was] abducted from his primary school in Gulu by rebels of the terrifying Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)...

On the day of his abduction, LRA rebels killed two of his uncles and shortly after, his father. Out of 600 boys at his school, the LRA took eight. During his first day in captivity, the LRA forced Mr. Komakech to visit his family homestead where he saw his dead uncles, other family members abducted and tortured, and his mother beaten unconscious.

Komakech quickly rose through the ranks of the LRA, and soon because the personal bodyguard of Joseph Kony, the brutal leader of the LRA, according to WorldMag.com.

After 10 years, Komakech finally managed to escape the LRA and soon started working with Invisible Children, helping the non-profit run an educational support program for former child soldiers, the Christian news site reports.

Invisible Children confirms that Komakech worked with the non-profit, but says that it supported him in “his personal recovery and academic development.”

In the weeks after “Kony 2012” was released, Invisible Children came under the microscope, receiving widespread support as well as criticism.

One criticism was that the non-profit worked too closely with the Ugandan government in its efforts to catch Kony.

The Ugandan government has been accused of a number of human rights abuses.

At the time, Invisible Children said that “none of the money donated through Invisible Children has ever gone to support the government of Uganda.” But it also called the Ugandan military “a necessary piece” in activities to fight the LRA.

By  |  12:58 PM ET, 04/11/2012

Tags:  World, Uganda, Invisible Children, Joseph Kony, Patrick Komakech

 
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