Human rights activist speaks at Eckerd College

03/04/09 Amy Beeman
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Human rights activist John Pendergast spoke last night at Eckerd College about the continuing genocide in Darfur.

John Pendergast is co-author of the New York Times best seller, Not on Our Watch, and co-founder of the Enough organization, a project to end genocide and crimes against humanity. He shared the story of a woman named Amena he met in Darfur; she was living under a tree shortly after two of her four children were brutally killed by the Janjaweed.

She told him how the Darfur militia, the Janjaweed, had invaded her village and thrown her 5-year-old son into a burning hut. Next they shot her 7-year-old son to death in front of her and her other children. The grieving woman had one request of Pendergast.

“Now that you know, you must do something,” she told him.

Pendergast told the crowd of 300 that genocide in Darfur, an area in Western Sudan, is the tactic used by the government to quell rebellious groups in order to retain power and control of the wealth of the region.

He said the Sudanese government commits these atrocities against it’s own people with the employment of the Janjaweed, an armed group of Arab supremists.

Pendegrast said there are three main reasons for the world’s allowance of the genocide in Darfur to continue. He said because the genocide began in 2003, about the same time the U.S. invaded Iraq, much of our resources and manpower were used to fund the Iraqi war.

Pendegrast also said challenging the Sudanese government would create a dilemma for the U.S. because there are elements of Al-Quaeda operating out of Sudan. The Sudanese government has been integral in providing information to the U.S. government that has helped us in our counter-terrorism efforts.

The last reason is energy security. Sudan is a major supplier of oil, and China is its largest investor, therefore Sudan is an ally of China, and is protected by them because they are essential to its energy security.

Pendegrast says that these three reasons keep the U.S. Government from getting involved with the Genocide in Darfur. But, he says a fourth reason nothing is being done is because of the skewed perception of the western world about Africa.

Pendegrast said media messages and Hollywood movies have given people the idea that Africa is a continent where there is only tragedy and violence. He said that what we aren’t told often enough about the resolutions, the peace agreements, and the reconciliations many African countries have achieved.

He said the way to end the genocide in Darfur is not by military force, but by diplomatic leadership. Pendergast says that while initiatives are being put in place to stop the genocide in Darfur, it’s imperative that citizens take measures to make their voices heard.

Joining a movement, contacting elected officials, or contacting local media and telling them you want to see more about the genocide in Darfur are all ways Pendergast suggests getting involved.

Pendegrast’s beliefs in the potential of Africa, coupled with the desperate plea from Amena to “do something,” are why he said his life’s work is to create a movement to end genocide not only in Darfur, but around the world. He said everyone is capable of helping to stop genocide.

For more information or to get involved with the movement to end genocide in Darfur, visit

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