Human rights activist John Prendergast says that despite the tragic news about Africa, the African continent is transforming from a war to a peaceful state. He thinks that a new and better-organized order of things is now under way.
Prendergast is the co-founder of the Enough Project, a program that promotes the end of genocide and crimes against humanity. He is also a best selling author who has dedicated himself to achieving peace and freedom in Africa for the last 25 years.
Prendergast spoke last Wednesday, Sept. 11 at the University of Utah’s Libby Gardner Hall. His lecture, “A Changing Africa,” was the 2013 World Leaders Lecture Forum. This annual lecture is co-sponsored by the SLCC.
Prendergast says that Africa is different now in comparison with the colonial times.
Many more African countries have established democratic governments with more freedom and security.
With all the economic potential, Africa is considered the next frontier for economic growth. Africa is a vast collection of nations with different languages, cultures and natural resources.
However, it has been portrayed in media as plagued by war and famine. People tend to see Africa as a continent that needs food and financial aid.
“The widespread belief is that Africa is a hopeless continent,” Prendergast says.
Prendergast says that movies such as “Blood Diamond” with Leonardo DiCaprio, “Lord of War” with Nicholas Cage, “Last King of Scotland” with Forest Whitaker and “Hotel Rwanda” with Don Cheadle illustrate that Africa is still portrayed as a tragic continent without hope.
Prendergast thinks that those movies are inaccurate because many of the deadliest wars in Africa have ended. He believes that Africa is headed to a new peaceful order of things based on freedom.
“The vast majority of Africa is unified and moving forward,” says Prendergast. “Africa is slowly and steadily getting freedom.”
The general public focuses on tragedies and conflicts delivered by the media. The facts that show progress in social issues are always overlooked.
Many dictators and gun dealers have been apprehended, more women are participating in politics, there are free elections, and natural resource traffickers have been stopped.
“We don’t usually see those facts,” Prendergast says.
Media shows only tragedies and deadly wars. It is concentrated on profits and is faithful to the saying “if it bleeds, it leads,” Prendergast says.
Prendergast concluded his lecture emphasizing the potential of general citizens to attain social changes.
“African activists are united in every fight,” he says.
He briefly mentioned how fighting against the apartheid in South Africa, toppling of corrupt dictators and, even in the early beginnings of the U.S. as a nation, the citizens were unified as one voice and body. This unifying factor was crucial to achieving peace, freedom and security for a general wellbeing.
Likewise, Prendergast indicated that many university students have contributed to important changes in Africa by engaging in campaigns and other humanitarian relief programs.
“Students have the initial role in pursuing or fighting for civil rights for future generations,” Prendergast says. “Their impact is amazing.”
Prendergast encouraged the audience to take simple actions to contribute to social changes in their own community.
Prendergast suggested to the audience that joining an organization or campaign, getting involved as activists, having others join you and using modern technology are effective ways to contribute to social change.
“Dedicate at least five minutes everyday to make your voice heard,” he says. “Let’s raise our voices as loud as we can.”
Prendergast enthusiastically says that these peaceful methods are among the most effective to attain real freedom, peace and harmony not only in Africa but also all around the world.
“We can end these tragedies,” Prendergast says, “not sending troops everywhere but promoting peace instead.”