Radios help U.S. hunt LRA

Used by villagers in remotest areas to report attacks

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Mr. Finck noted that the information is available publicly.

“We want it to be useful for anyone trying to deliver services to better communities or those who are seeking an end to this conflict,” he said. “Yes, the Americans and [Ugandan troops] hold a strong presence in the region. We’re trying to build a better base of knowledge of LRA information, bottom line. There’s just a critical information gap. This tool is seeking to fill that and be useful to everyone involved.”

Congo is a vast land of triple-canopy forest the size of all U.S. states east of the Mississippi River. Roads are skinny lanes of packed dirt overrun by foliage. Cellphone coverage is limited to a few large towns. The villages attacked by the LRA are off the power grid, and there is no running water.

That isolation and simplicity has allowed the LRA for years to move in, attack communities and move back into the jungle.

But with the arrival of the radios, verified reports of violence can be up on the Crisis Tracker website within hours, said Chuck Phillips, chief technology officer for Digitaria, which created the website.

“Our primary goal was to provide that accurate, authoritative source for LRA activities, and the second is to continue to fight the LRA by raising awareness and enabling people to understand what it is they are doing and how they are killing, raping and destroying families,” Mr. Phillips said.

The LRA began its attacks in Uganda in the 1980s, when Mr. Kony sought to overthrow the government. Since being pushed out of Uganda several years ago, the militia has terrorized villages in Central Africa with no clear political agenda.

If the Ugandan and U.S. forces hunting LRA commanders use the website — and thus the information relayed by the village radio operators — it stands to reason the LRA could start attacking the radios.

Mr. Finck said that has long been a concern, but the radios are placed in the center of villages, where security forces are stationed.

“Tower” is a generous term, as Mr. Phillips noted.

“It’s a high-frequency radio strapped to a very long stick or tree branch on top of a building, which is also a generous term. It’s usually a very small shack, for a lack of a better word, and a solar panel to power the radio,” he said. “It’s pretty low-tech.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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