A human wave in support of the world's most forgotten people is building. We're not surfers, but we love how surfers describe the perfect wave. The wave builds to a crescendo, you're in awe of it, you approach and ride it, and it carries you safely home to your destination. The formation of this human wave was not predicted. A decade ago, few people even knew what a "Darfur" was, how our cell phones directly contributed to making Congo the most dangerous place in the world to be a woman or a girl, or who the "invisible children" of Uganda were. Ten years ago, an event regarding genocide or other crimes against humanity would have attracted perhaps a dozen or so hardy souls, wearing their sandals and psychedelic t-shirts, prepared, if necessary, to break out into a stanza or two of "Kumbaya."
But today a strange and beautiful cocktail of hope, anger, citizen activism, social networking, compassion, celebrities, faith in action, and globalization are all coming together to produce the beginnings of a mass movement of people against these crimes and for peace. And this is happening at the very time that an American administration is populated by a number of people who have been the leading elected officials to have stood up against genocide, child soldier recruitment, and rape as a war weapon. We call the sheer possibility inherent in this confluence of factors the Enough Moment, and it means that our feeling that Enough Is Enough might actually get translated into real action for change.
These are three of the great scourges of our world, of our time. Genocide, mass rape, and child conscription are the most deadly and diabolical manifestations of war, with the gravest human consequences imaginable. Nearly 10 million fresh graves have been dug as a result of these tactics in East and Central Africa alone over the last twenty years, and countless millions of refugees have been rendered homeless. Sudan and Congo, in fact, are the two deadliest conflicts in the world since the Holocaust.
The stakes remain enormous. And this is by no means an Africa-only phenomenon. The kinds of tactics used by warring parties globally are increasingly targeted at civilian populations who are usually defenseless and largely disconnected from the perpetrators of the violence. As a result, the ratio of civilians to soldiers who die at times runs as high as nine to one. Because of this targeting of civilians, over 100 million people died violent deaths during the twentieth century's wars and genocides. This exceeds the death count of all pre-twentieth-century wars and massacres combined.
At this juncture of human history, and because of the distortion and delay in Africa's own historical trajectory created by the European colonial era, it turns out that the global epicenter of this kind of targeted violence is currently playing itself out on African soil, with weapons that come largely from America, Europe, and Asia. And these are therefore the places most in need of a global people's movement and smart U.S. policies to ensure an appropriate global response in support of peace.
This is also the continent we know best, and we have committed ourselves to making a difference there.The Enough MomentIn times of tragedy the United States of America steps forward and helps. That is who we are. That is what we do. . . . When we show not just our power but also our compassion, the world looks to us with a mixture of awe and admiration. That advances our leadership. That shows the character of our country.
-President Barack Obama
Strong and true words indeed from President Obama. But words unmatched with deeds can sometimes be worse than no words at all. Politician after politician, and UN resolution after UN resolution, have made promise after promise to end these crimes without doing what is necessary to give their words teeth.
But now a politically potent constituency forming through mass campaigns is raising awareness of these crimes, and it's time to translate intention into action. There is an increasing opportunity to democratize our foreign policy making and to widen and deepen people's stake in international issues. We've finally got a president and a cabinet that have made huge pledges to act. Before they took office in 2009, President Obama, Vice President Biden, and Secretary of State Clinton were all major anti-genocide campaigners in the U.S. Senate, as was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice in her previous think tank capacity. They all have formidable track records, demonstrating that being a bystander has never been an option for them. Now in the executive branch, they have the opportunity to act.
Now is the time to make this our collective Enough Moment-the day when we say "Enough" to the atrocities happening to our brothers and sisters in these war-torn regions. We have the opportunity to say "Enough Is Enough" and have these words become something tangible.
Historically, when we have decided that we are indeed our brother's and sister's keepers, we have acted. There are cases around the world of this resolve, such as global efforts to stop genocides in Kosovo and in East Timor. Africa has its own examples:
When a genocide was about to occur in northeast Congo in 2003, the world said ENOUGH and stopped it from happening by deploying a European-led force to protect people and disarm militias.
When terrible wars fueled by blood diamonds ripped Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Angola apart, the world said ENOUGH and stopped buying the blood diamonds, which helped cut off the fuel for the war, providing the opening for the wars to finally end.
When South Africa was ruled by a racist white supremacist government that put Nelson Mandela in Robben Island prison for decades, the world said ENOUGH, and governments imposed-at the request of the people of South Africa-biting comprehensive sanctions until the racist system and government were dismantled completely and Mandela was freed (and elected president).
Now it is the moment to say Enough death in Darfur. Enough rape in the Congo. Enough children turned into fighting machines in northern Uganda. Enough.
John: There are so many great examples and great stories in Africa that people hardly know anything about. There was this kid, Arnold, that I met on my last trip to Congo, who had been forcibly recruited a few times as a child soldier, but he escaped and he is now going to university. He went through all this counseling, and he recently started his own nongovernment organization (NGO), Youth and Human Rights, advocating for the importance of justice and accountability. Instead of succumbing to the crushing circumstances he had endured, the kind of trauma that would destroy most of us, and then instead of being a bystander, Arnold decided to stand up and be a leader. That is utterly remarkable.
Don: It was amazing when we were making Hotel Rwanda. In one of the scenes where women were being brutalized, a lot of the extras had actually been through it in real life. And I just remember asking one of the women, "How could you go through it again like this, even in a movie scene?" And she said, "It's very important that the story be told again, and in the right way. And I want to be part of that." And I was like, "Wow."
John: That is a strength that is just immeasurable, man. I remember this one Darfurian fellah that Samantha Power and I met on our first trip together into the rebel-held areas of Darfur. One night early on in our trip, out under a thousand stars, with everyone in their sleeping bags, this gentleman began telling us the story of Darfur and why his people are fighting for freedom. With a flashlight and his finger, he illustrated everything with drawings and diagrams in the sand. He spent hours on the nuances, the grievances, the rationale for what he argued is a just war in Darfur. The people in Darfur, he told us, are not helpless or passive victims. Most are struggling, indeed, but many are fighting for their rights and for peace. Under that starry canopy, he was telling us that there are REASONS for the conflict in Darfur, and therefore there are SOLUTIONS that the Darfurian people are trying to contribute to by supporting the rebellion with their sons and their sustenance. And the reason he said he was risking his life to travel with us is because the solution won't come without telling the real story of Darfur to America and the world, and he is hoping that enough people in what seemed to him to be an indifferent world will stand up and lend a hand in the solution.
The good news is that over the last few years, there have been huge rallies, growing numbers of people joining advocacy groups, lobby days, petition drives, massive postcard and letter writing campaigns, major congressional interest, and bold pronouncements by all the major candidates for president in 2008. And even our previous book became a top-five New York Times bestseller.
John: It's still available, by the way. I'm just saying.
Don: Please focus.
The task is clear. We as caring citizens need to catalyze and build an even bigger and stronger people's movement for change. We need to assemble an unusual coalition and force better policies through popular demand. The political will for real change will come from the bottom up. This is our chance. There may never again be an opportunity like this. We must seize this Enough Moment, and seize it now.
John: Carpe Momentum!
Don: Really? You're just gonna roll with "Carpe Momentum"?
John: I'm trying to recruit that crucial Latin-speaking constituency . . .Why This Book
Africa is a continent full of promise, with identifiable solutions to these human rights crimes. Genocide has, in some places, been successfully prevented or ended. Child soldier recruitment has, in some places, been stopped, and the children affected have been rehabilitated. Rape as a tool of war, in some places, has been neutralized. Wars have been resolved. Understanding that there are answers is empowering. Demonstrating that the answers usually involve partnerships between Frontline Upstanders in the war zones and Citizen Upstanders in the United States and around the world is crucial to showing that there is a connection between the activism of ordinary citizens and the ending of wars and massive crimes against humanity.
If we can build a broader and deeper people's movement against these kinds of crimes against humanity, our political system will become more motivated and effective in responding to and ultimately in preventing these crimes. Unless there is a political cost for inaction, we will get inaction. The growing people's movement is attempting to create a political cost for inaction, for lip service, for turning away from people in need of a hand. We hope to see a world where the penalties for committing these atrocities are so severe and the diplomacy to prevent them so deft and automatic that their recurrence becomes a subject relegated to our museums and history books.
We want to ring the bell for the seven-alarm fire that is raging in Africa's deadliest war zones. The 10 million deaths in the countries on which we are focused is a modern-day holocaust that demands a response. This book is the call to your Enough Moment.People's Movements
If we take a hard look at the last century, we see both politicians and great ideas come and go. But the ingredients that time and again have really changed the world are the people's movements we know so well: the women's movement, the civil rights movement, the labor movement, the peace movement, the environmental movement, the anti- apartheid movement. They all show how change is possible-even when conventional wisdom is stacked in opposition-when organized groups of people come together around an issue they care enough about to move aside the forces of the status quo.
Finally, for the first time ever, we have a popularly based anti- genocide movement. We have a growing chorus of voices focused on stopping the destruction of women in the Congo. There is a renegade, underground phenomenon, called Invisible Children, that is sweeping through college campuses and that is dedicated to finding a solution to the child soldier travesty in northern Uganda and the surrounding region. Building the scale and scope of these efforts provides a unique and historic opportunity to help alter the course of history in those areas.
When we hear about Africa, it is often in the context of war, genocide, or famine. These phenomena are not inevitable. They can be stopped, and even prevented. Enlightened government policies focused on solving these challenges have proven successful. Unfortunately, so much of the effort and resources are focused on the shocking symptoms of war, leading to multi-billion-dollar outlays for emergency aid and military observers. There needs to be an equal emphasis on dealing with the causes through competent peace processes, which are perhaps the most cost-effective tool we have in the international arsenal for dealing with crises. The truth is, though, government action in support of addressing the causes that will lead to an end to these crises will be deployed earlier and be more consistent only when there is a larger and deeper people's movement focused on ending these tragedies.
We need to shift the paradigm away from simply responding to the symptoms of these wars to focusing on ending them. The best way to end genocide, child soldier recruitment, and rape as a war weapon is to end the wars in which these strategies run wild and to impose a significant cost on those who utilize these deadly strategies.
This is where you come in. People's movements have two functions: to place pressure on our government to care about these kinds of issues that are often at the bottom of the list, and to ensure that our government is actually pursuing lasting cures for these crises, rather than just treating their symptoms. In other words, we don't want just action. We want smart action.
There are reasons why the world hasn't "saved" Darfur. The genocide there has raged long beyond the time it could have been stopped. The reason is that the governmental policies that were pursued regarding Darfur were not focused on ending the crisis. Instead, the policies mostly addressed only the symptoms, which they treated with humanitarian aid and peacekeeping forces, for which billions of taxpayer dollars have been and are being spent. This symptoms-based approach represented a failure of nations like the United States, but it also represented the Darfur anti-genocide movement's early overemphasis on UN peacekeeping troops, when the emphasis should have been on a peace deal backed by serious consequences for continued genocidal actions.
Humanitarian aid is a necessary bandage, provided to keep people alive and address their acute emergencies presumably while solutions are being sought. Peacekeeping forces are sent in primarily to observe and report on the actions of the parties to a conflict or a ceasefire, often before a peace deal has even been signed. Inexplicably, it usually takes years of a crisis burning before there are systematic attempts to END the crisis that generate the need for aid and peacekeepers. That is what the people's movement must do: demand that government and UN policies be designed to focus early on dealing with root causes and ending these crises in a sustainable way. This Enough
Copyright © 2010 by John Prendergast. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.