As totalitarian regimes around the world fall through revolutions fueled by modern social networks like Twitter and Facebook, a pair of human rights organizations combating injustice in Central Africa, Invisible Children and Resolve, announced today the launch of the LRA Crisis Tracker – a groundbreaking crisis-mapping platform that broadcasts in real time the attacks perpetrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which continues its 25-year campaign of violence against civilians across the most remote areas of Central Africa.
The LRA, a brutal rebel group responsible for Africa’s longest-running armed conflict, has murdered and mutilated innocent civilians for more than two decades, across four countries. Their self-appointed messiah, Joseph Kony, uses fear and psychological manipulation to control the regime. The key to the LRA’s continued survival has been the kidnapping of children who are conscripted into their ranks, a number that has reached over 30,000 according to UN reports.
The LRA Crisis Tracker makes attack information publicly available through a digital map, a breaking newsfeed, regular data-analysis reports, and a mobile application—all of which can be found at LRACrisisTracker.com. Gathering reports of attacks from a local early-warning radio network supported by Invisible Children, in addition to data sourced from the United Nations, local Non-Government Organizations, and first-hand research, the project immediately becomes the most accurate source of public information on the LRA in existence, resulting in improved efforts to combat LRA atrocities and help communities in need.
“Our successful effort to install an early warning radio network in remote Congo communities was the first step towards filling the void of timely and accurate information about the LRA’s movements,” said Invisible Children’s Chief Executive Officer Ben Keesey. “This melding of old technology with the new will be an enormous breakthrough in the protection of people living in one of the most remote corners in the world.”
The tool was developed in response to what is now known as the Makombo Massacre. In December of 2009, under the command of ICC-indicted war criminal Joseph Kony, the LRA killed 321 civilians in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Despite the incredible scale and brutality of the violence, the international community did not learn of the massacre until March 2010—three months later.
Michael Poffenberger, Executive Director of Resolve, said, “Not only is this a pioneering tool for activists and policymakers, but community-run protection organizations in Central Africa will directly benefit from regular reports analyzing LRA movement and attack patterns. The response time to LRA atrocities should be three hours, not three months.”
The LRA Crisis Tracker was developed in partnership with award-winning marketing and technology agency Digitaria. The result is a tool that combines empirical data with storytelling, visually-engaging data representation and narrative-rich media.
“As the Arab Spring has shown convincingly, technology can be used as a revolutionary springboard for social change,” said Digitaria’s Chief Technology Officer Chuck Phillips. “But Twitter and Facebook were intended as social tools and adapted as a force for social change. The Crisis Tracker is intended to put a scare into the bad guys from day one.”
The LRA Crisis tracker makes unique use of the cloud-computing platform Salesforce to compile reports of attacks, sent via Invisible Children’s recently installed early warning radio network in communities across the Congo, which are received and aggregated from a hub in northeastern DR Congo. The reports are immediately transcribed into Salesforce, where a customized content management system delivers the information to the mapping system and application.
“Technology is a game-changer in the battle to bring justice to war criminals,” Keesey concluded. “It levels the playing field by empowering the individual, and Invisible Children and Resolve will continue to pursue these technological developments toward greater civilian protection and lasting peace.”
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