On our second trip together to Africa last Thanksgiving, we decided to go to the place where the deadliest war in the world was occurring: the Congo. The entire time we were there, we traveled with an extraordinary Congolese guy named Fidel Bafilemba. His video profile is the first in a new video series being launched by the Enough Project, called “I Am Congo.” Read More »
WASHINGTON – Celebrities are becoming a significant contributing factor to human rights advocacy in Africa.
"Celebrities who use their fame to highlight the plight of some of the world's most vulnerable people are making a real difference. They have educated countless people and shined a light on issues that would otherwise remain shrouded in darkness. By recruiting thousands of people to relatively unknown causes, they help create a real pressure for change,” said Co-founder of the Enough Project John Prendergast, who works closely with many of the organization’s celebrity partners.
The Enough Project, which works to end genocide and crimes against humanity, has partnered with many celebrities to raise awareness about African human rights campaigns that include ending genocide in Sudan, and stopping the deadly conflict mineral trade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Celebrity partners have advocated for these issues through participating in videos and interviews, traveling with the Enough Project to Africa, writing opinion-editorial pieces, and initiating further efforts to support these growing human rights concerns. For example:
George Clooney traveled to Sudan in October 2010 with John Prendergast, and initiated the Satellite Sentinel Project, which uses cutting edge technology to visually document human rights abuses in Sudan;
In May 2011, actor Javier Bardem participated in a Mother’s Day video with John Prendergast, to educate the public about the conflict minerals trade in the Congo, which was also translated into Spanish;
More recently, Chicago Bulls star and South Sudan native Luol Deng traveled with the Enough Project to South Sudan for the country’s independence. While there he hosted a youth basketball clinic and shot a video about South Sudan featured on the front page of Yahoo!;
And in August 2010, Ashley Judd traveled with the Enough Project to the DR Congo to learn more about the connection between the conflict minerals trade and violence in the region. Upon return, she appeared in two powerful CNN pieces that covered these topics, and raised awareness about the Congo’s deadly mineral trade.
To highlight these and other celebrities who have partnered to date with the Enough Project on various campaigns and initiatives, the Enough Project has launched an online Celebrity Upstanders database. This new web resource includes 44 celebrity profiles that feature video clips, press interviews, and opinion pieces, highlighting each individual celebrity’s involvement with the Enough Project, and its conflict areas in the Sudan, DR Congo, and LRA-affected communities.
The term “Upstander” originated from Samantha Power's book A Problem from Hell. It was also referred to in the book The Enough Moment: Fighting to End Africa's Worst Human Rights Crimes, written by actor/activist Don Cheadle and John Prendergast: "Throughout our lives, we will constantly have choices and opportunities to either become Upstanders or bystanders. If ENOUGH of us choose to be Upstanders, we can help change the course of history.”
Therefore, the many celebrities who have partnered with the Enough Project have become Celebrity Upstanders by raising awareness and making a difference on some of the most difficult human rights issues in the world today.
Enough is a project of the Center for American Progress to end genocide and crimes against humanity. Founded in 2007, the Enough Project focuses on crises in Sudan, eastern Congo, and areas of Africa affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army. Enough’s strategy papers and briefings provide sharp field analysis and targeted policy recommendations based on a “3P” crisis response strategy: promoting durable peace, providing civilian protection, and punishing perpetrators of atrocities. Enough works with concerned citizens, advocates, and policy makers to prevent, mitigate, and resolve these crises. For more information, please visit www.enoughproject.org.
Here in northern Uganda, we are surrounded by stories of redemption and transformation.
A headmaster of a local school in Gulu tells us the story of a former abducted child soldier who escaped from captivity with the brutal Lord's Resistance Army rebel militia. He stood up one day in class and attacked the boy sitting next to him, announcing that he had killed 82 people when he was with the LRA, and it was time for number 83. After he was restrained, the headmaster handled him gently, sent him to a local group for counseling, and he is now enrolled in high school with the intention of eventually going to college.
(Washington, DC) June 5, 2007: In a strategy paper released today, ENOUGH calls for strong U.S. leadership in a coordinated international push to end Africa's longest-running war: the 20-year conflict in northern Uganda.
Authored by ENOUGH co-chair John Prendergast, the paper advocates a dual approach to peacemaking aimed at both defusing the LRA security threat as well as promoting rehabilitation, reconstruction, and reconciliation in northern Uganda. There are two phases involved. This dual approach is necessary both to normalize northern Uganda and help stabilize a broader sub-region that includes southern Sudan and eastern Congo.
"To end this nightmare once and for all, the Ugandan government and the international community must construct an overall peace strategy," argues Prendergast.
Four ingredients are essential to securing peace in northern Uganda: reform of the Juba process and support for its cessation of hostilities agreement; parallel facilitation of direct contacts between President Yoweri Museveni and LRA leader Joseph Kony to broker a security deal for LRA leadership; preparation for a wider process following the security deal to address the political, economic and social concerns of northern Ugandans; and increased leverage from the international community through carrots and sticks in support of a solution.
The missing ingredient, ENOUGH argues, is political will. Given the U.S. government's close relationship and consequent leverage with President Museveni, Prendergast explains that the U.S. has a key role to play, and calls on the White House to name a senior official to work on behalf of the peace process. Moreover, without strong U.S. support the LRA will remain skeptical that any Ugandan peace overtures will be fulfilled or any agreement implemented.
"We don't need billions of dollars or U.S. troops to end the nightmare of the LRA," said Prendergast, "We just need the U.S. to take a leadership role."
In support of the paper's recommendations, ENOUGH has teamed up with Resolve Uganda, Invisible Children, the United States Institute of Peace, actor Ryan Gosling and others for two days of awareness-raising and policy focused events in Washington DC on June 4 and 5.
How to avoid being a pompous celebrity activist type? Follow the lead of Ryan Gosling. Headlining a panel here yesterday with the title of "Confronting Genocide and Mass Atrocities," the young Oscar nominee took an abashed, self-deprecating approach.
"For some reason, there's an interest in what people who do what I do have to say," the actor murmured. "I don't particularly have that much to say . . . but I do have these experiences that I can relay. I'm honored to have these experiences."
(Aw, shucks. We're not going to be able to make fun of this one.)
The 27-year-old Gosling was Hollywood's rep to this year's Campus Progress National Conference, a confab of about 300 lefty college activists at the Omni Shoreham. His topic: Darfur. Gosling sounded sheepish, reports our colleague Marissa Newhall, describing the way the children he met on a visit to refugee camps stared at him: "Not like I was just some actor from Hollywood who was there to have an experience. They looked at me like I was somebody who could really do something. And I didn't consider myself in that way."
He added: "I still can see the way they looked at me."
Gosling -- close-cropped hair, cargo-style shirt, navy pants, combat boots, gold watch -- spoke softly and deferred to his fellow panelists, ENOUGH Project Co-chairman John Prendergast and African activists Betty Bigombe and Omer Ismail, playing interviewer and letting them tell the stories. The four had obviously spent much time together, evidenced by the convivial banter. The actor playfully flirted with Bigombe, a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, praising her beauty until she in return joked how handsome he was.
"I'm single, by the way," Gosling noted, drawing whistles and hoots from the college gals. "Do what you want with that."