At age nine, Patrick Komakech was forced into service with the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal Ugandan militant faction. Ten years later he escaped and began helping US NGO Invisible Children, appearing in several of its videos about the problem of child soldiers.
But being out of the LRA and not being pursued by the Ugandan military are two very different things, and US State Department cables from WikiLeaks show that when the military came knocking, Invisible Children eagerly answered the call, tipping the military off about Komakech’s whereabouts, information that led to his capture.
The revelation brings into even deeper focus Invisible Children’s close relationship with the Ugandan military, a human rights violator par excellence in its own right. The group insists “none of the money donated through Invisible Children” has ever gone to Uganda’s government, but in cases like this, it seems the organization itself is acting as a virtual auxiliary arm.
Though the issue of child soldiers is indeed serious, the eagerness to work in tandem with the Ugandan government has made the anti-LRA campaign primarily a military one. US troops invaded Uganda in October with the Ugandan regime’s endorsement to fight the LRA. The move was not out of the blue, but the result of years of calls for escalation by NGOs, resulting in an ongoing US military relationship with Uganda’s own military, including tens of millions of dollars in training and armament.