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New Digital Technology Hunts Down War Criminal and His Army in Central Africa

Communities across Central Africa are now better equipped to prevent and respond to atrocities committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) thanks to Aid for Africa member Invisible Children, which brought the atrocities of the LRA in Uganda to the world through film, and now uses a new technology to track the Army’s movements.

The LRA, led by Joseph Kony and responsible for Africa’s longest running conflict, currently operates in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. For more than two decades its soldiers have been mutilating, raping and murdering innocent civilians and have kidnapped more than 30,000 children who they then turn into soldiers to maintain power.

With the introduction of the LRA Crisis Tracker, human rights abuses are now displayed in real-time on a publicly accessible digital map. This allows community-run protection organizations in Central Africa to analyze LRA movements and attack patterns and respond accordingly. Policymakers and activists are also better able to determine where to devote resources to track down LRA forces.

The tool was developed in response to the Makombo Massacre in December of 2009 when the LRA killed 329 civilians in rural Northeastern DRC. It took three months for the international community to learn about the atrocity.

Incidents are compiled from nongovernmental organizations, UN agencies and Invisible Children’s Early Warning radio network, which alerts local populations to impending attacks. Users of the map can drill down and locate points that are color coded by incident type such as child abductions, civilian deaths, and looting and click to learn the details of what happened. Below the map is an interactive timeline consisting of a series of vertical bars aligned next to each other. Each bar represents a single week and its height indicates the number of reported incidents that week. A news feed of recent attacks, social media integration, and downloadable reports are also available.

“Our successful effort to install an early warning radio network in remote Congo communities was the first step toward 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.”

Invisible Children partnered with Washington DC-based Resolve, which advocates to US and international policymakers to end the atrocities by the LRA and to support a lasting peace in LRA-affected communities across Central Africa, and digital media agency Digitaria.

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