BY JOHN WILLIS
In our line of work, we see a lot of interesting online campaigns and useful — not to mention cool — uses of social media. Here’s one that I learned about from Grace Wu, an Amnesty International activist, while we waited for our flight to Ottawa a few weeks ago.
It’s an iPhone app that lets every single one of us participate in the campaign to end the brutality of Congo’s Lord’s Resistance Army — the outfit that routinely kidnaps children and deliberately dehumanizes them so that they become the sort of sadistic killers that the LRA leadership needs to prosecute its horrific war against the people of central Africa.
The LRA Crisis Tracker is exactly what it sounds like — a pocket portal to witness, in real time, the horror that is the LRA. Developed by NGOs Invisible Children and Resolve, the tracker displays the latest eyewitness counts for abductions, killings, rape or other assaults by the LRA (see screenshots below).
The Tracker is easy to understand and designed to attract attention. But what impressed me about it is that, by making the situation on the ground transparent and accessible to all, it instantly makes every user a witness to gross human rights abuse. And as a witness, each of us is implicated — we must act. That applies as much to President Obama (who has met with Resolve and Invisible Children to plan the US response to the situation in Congo) as it does to the proverbial soccer mom in Kansas or Kenora. For the one, the right response will be to increase US support for action against the LRA on the ground; for the other, the right response may be to send a donation to support the eyewitnesses who bring the truth to light. (Naturally the Tracker has a simple ‘donate now’ button, and the developers indicate that all funds raised will help more witnesses come forward with their stories.)
Moreover, with fresh accounts of atrocities coming out of the killing zones more regularly, legal actions are more feasible and more often successful — a concrete example of how information is power and how that power is, with every passing day, more easily organized and transmitted through social media. Lives are literally being saved.
You can find out more about the LRA Tracker and the campaign of which it is part through the link below, and the organizations mentioned in this post.