September 7, 2010
Posted: 12:17 PM ET
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.
A politically potent constituency forming through mass campaigns is raising awareness of these human rights 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:
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.
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