Lismore resident and Sudanese refugee Hezron Tomor speaks about his experiences in refugee camps in Africa.
Lismore resident and Sudanese refugee Hezron Tomor speaks about his experiences in refugee camps in Africa. Cathy Adams

Warlord's reign of terror

YOU may only have heard of Joseph Kony for the first time in the past few days, but the internet's most talked about man was terrifying Hezron Tomor long before he was made famous by Invisible Children Inc, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Mr Tomor came to Lismore as a refugee from Sudan in 2008 and in between spent time in a refugee camp in Uganda, called Oligi, where he was surrounded by constant reminders of Kony and his militia the Lord's Resistance Army or LRA.

"Kony attacked refugee camps in Uganda. There was a refugee camp in Uganda called Oligi. There was a UNHCR convoy taking food to Oligi from Gulu. He attacked the convoy and burned the vehicles," Mr Tomor said.

"It really affected us. I was at Oligi and we had to wait for more food."

On one occasion, Mr Tomor said he and a group of others had to run a blockade laid out by the LRA.

"They tried to block the road but we had arms and were able to break the blockade," he said.

Another Sudanese refugee, Deng Maker, 24, who also came to Lismore in 2008, said people would flee the fighting in Sudan to northern Uganda, only to encounter the horrors of Kony and the LRA.

Mr Maker said while in Uganda he met a woman named Aduk and her eight-year-old son.

"The boy was abducted and she had to flee the area and go back to Sudan. I have heard many stories like this and many kids were abducted that I knew when I was young. I have never seen Aduk again," Mr Maker said.

Under Kony's command, the LRA has spent about 26 years rampaging across Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, abducting children and turning them into sex slaves or soldiers, forcing children to kill their parents or mutilate people's faces.

Kony's actions have created more than two million refugees since he began his rebellion in 1986.

He is accused of kidnapping an estimated 66,000 young boys to recruit them by force into his army.

Kony has received a surge of attention this week with the release of a 30-minute documentary and call to arms, called Kony 2012, by US filmmaker Jason Russell for campaign group Invisible Children Inc.

The film is a shorter version of a documentary released in 2004 and includes a call for viewers to help pressure political leaders to "stop Kony".

By yesterday afternoon, the film had been watched more than 40 million times.

However, the film and its creators have also come under fire for their philosophies and practices.

Canadian student Grant Oyston's Visible Children blog has had its own viral surge on the internet after he took issue with the charity behind the documentary, receiving more than two million visitors in three days (admittedly a tiny number compared to the documentary's 40 million-plus views).

"Last year the organisation (Invisible Children Inc) spent $8,676,614. Only 32% went to direct services, much of the rest going to staff salaries, travel and transport and film production," Mr Oyston wrote.

"This is far from ideal for an issue which arguably needs action and aid, not awareness, and Charity Navigator rates their accountability 2/4 stars because they lack an external audit committee.

"The group is in favour of direct military intervention and their money supports the Ugandan gov- ernment's army and various other military forces."

Invisible Children has been quick to hit back.

"Really? Three young men who fly halfway around the world to stop violence against children is something you feel the need to criticise?" wrote Kony 2012 director Jon Turteltaub on Invisible Children's blog.

"Three middle-class white guys risking their lives to stop a genocidal madman instead of hanging out at home and playing Angry Birds is something you feel needs to be brought down a notch?"

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