Tracking atrocities in Congo

At the height of Kenya’s post-election violence reports of fresh attacks were coming in by the hour. I’d get phone calls and text messages from people I’d met across the country telling me a dozen more houses had been burned down or another village had been emptied.

It was impossible to keep track and there was no chance I’d be able to write about them all anyway. Most journalist and human rights investigators tended to focus, understandably, on the bigger attacks. But this meant that most went completely unreported.

It is one thing to forget about a tragedy after it has occurred. It’s another thing altogether to not even know about it in the first place. A group of bloggers and tech experts put together a website, Ushahidi, which sought to collate and map every single attack that was carried out. Anybody could text or email in a report. Once verified it would be placed on the map.


The technology was used again in South Africa in May during the xenophobic attacks on immigrants. Now, the team have put together a site dedicated to the Democratic Republic of Congo. The story in Congo may be slipping down the news agenda, but the level of atrocities is not diminishing. (It’s worth taking a moment to read Chris McGreal’s piece in today’s Guardian)

If you’re in Congo, the number to SMS is +243992592111.

For more background on Ushahidi, which means ‘testimony’ in Swahili, take a look at White African and Kenyan Pundit – two members of the group’s management team.


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