ANAHEIM (CBS) — Nearly 70 million people worldwide have seen the video charging a Ugandan warlord with crimes against humanity and children.
In Anaheim Saturday night, one of those young victims of violence talked about the horrors he witnessed and suffered at the hands of Joseph Kony.
Gabriel Pacotoo credits the charity “Invisible Children” with saving his life. Ugandan-born, the 19-year-old told a crowd of about 100 people at the Anaheim Convention Center how warlord Kony forced as many as 30,000 children to do horrible things in his reign of unspeakable terror.
Pacotoo says, “Young boys are forced to cut boys’ body parts. Like their nose, their hands, their mouth. All those things are done by young boys.”
He says Kony also forced young women to become sex slaves, a similar charge made in a documentary by “Invisible Children.”
Weeks ago, very few people outside of Africa ever heard of Kony — now a fugitive from justice. Through social media he has become a scourge, seemingly overnight. The documentary, on YouTube, is hoping to increase worldwide awareness of Kony and his alleged crimes. Nearly 70 million have seen the viral video it with thousands more added every hour.
Pacotoo told the audience that Kony’s men murdered his aunt and grandfather. His grandfather had been paying the young man’s university bills.
A scholarship to university paid for by “Invisible Children,” kept Pacotoo from being recruited to fight as a guerrilla with Kony against the Ugandan government.
“They don’t give the money right into my hands but through ‘Invisible Children’ you have paid my school fees and they are paying school fees of a lot of students,” he says.
After addressing the crowd, Pacotoo directed the audience to a fundraising table where pledges were taken and bracelets and DVDs were sold.
Reporters were not allowed to speak to Pacotoo personally or ask him any questions.
Meanwhile, the charity has received increasing criticism for reportedly spending too much on marketing and not enough for direct aid to the people Kony has allegedly brutalized.
Last year, the group took in $13.8 million and spent nearly 9 million of that on marketing and expenses — leaving only $3.3 million for programs in Africa.
Zach Barrows, of “Invisible Children” says, “We’ve never pretended all the money goes to the ground because we don’t believe that’s the best use. The best use is spreading the word and then doing the highest-impact programs possible on the ground.”