An American author-activist is calling for a mass 21st century movement against atrocities currently being committed in East Africa. These range from the use of rape as a weapon of war in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to the recruitment of child soldiers by the roaming rebel Lord's Resistance Army.
At a recent book signing, John Prendergast, the co-founder of Enough, the anti-genocide project at the Center for American Progress, gave a call to action.
"We need to make this moment in time matter for the women of Congo, for the survivors in Sudan, for the kids in Uganda," said John Prendergast. "This is a moment I believe as someone who has worked in Congress, worked in administration, worked in the United Nations, worked now in non-governmental organizations for many years, this is a moment, if we say enough, loudly enough, we can help stop some of Africa's deadliest human rights crimes."
Prendergast has just co-authored with American actor and activist Don Cheadle a new book called The Enough Moment.
It collects testimonies from three groups of people, all called upstanders, survivors who go on to help their communities, regular citizens who try to help them, and famous activists.
Prendergast defined the term after signing several dozen copies of his new book.
"They get off the sidelines, they stop being a bystander and they become an upstander. [Irish-American writer] Samantha Power wrote about it in her book about genocide, about the people who witnessed or heard the bell toll and said they have got to get involved, they have got to do something, they have got to stand up for the people who are being targeted on the basis of their identity, targeted because they are kids, targeted because they are women, whatever their circumstances are," he said.
He gave the example of a raped teacher in Congo who decided she had had enough, and students of all ages in the United States using social networking tools as well as protests to denounce some of Africa's atrocities.
One of those in attendance, Susan Koscis, the communications director for the U.S-based group Search for Common Ground, asked whether such a movement could be effectively started from the outside.
"John Prendergast, I think rightly pointed out the example of South Africa which came from both within but also hugely from without and that is a great example to have come back with," said Susan Koscis.
But unlike the end of the racist apartheid regime, which followed years of international condemnation, protests and outside government action, Koscis says she does not yet see the same cumulative effect of sentiment and policy for ending atrocities in east Africa. She did call the effort very noble.
Maureen Evans Arthurs, who also attended the book signing, was more optimistic.
"I feel like that is how all huge movements start," said Maureen Evans Arthurs. "They are just a couple of concerned citizens who realize that there is something wrong and they want to be part of that change and then they talk to their friends, they talk to their co-workers and other people who believe in it and then it becomes a movement of millions of people and change happens. I feel like that is really the only way that change has ever come about."
The next day Evans Arthurs started to become engaged again by writing a blog entry on the website of the AAUW, formerly known as the American Association of University Women.
The title was Is Your Mobile Phone Funding Rape? about the links between rape and mining for components of electronic consumer goods in war-ravaged eastern Congo.
Evans Arthurs ended the post by calling for people to boycott products with contents that cannot be traced and to move American campuses toward conflict-free electronics as well.