Stop Rape in Congo as a Weapon of War: John Prendergast Speaks Nov. 4 - Southern Maryland Headline News

Stop Rape in Congo as a Weapon of War: John Prendergast Speaks Nov. 4

This year’s Nitze Fellow at St. Mary's College of Maryland, John Prendergast, seeks peace in Congo. (Submitted photo)
This year’s Nitze Fellow at St. Mary's College of Maryland, John Prendergast, seeks peace in Congo. (Submitted photo)

ST. MARY’S CITY, Md. (October 27, 2009) — This year’s St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s 2009-2010 Nitze Senior Fellow, human rights activist John Prendergast, has passionately fought for many years to end genocide and other crimes against humanity in Africa, particularly in the countries of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Prendergast gives his first of three public lectures, “Stopping Rape as a Weapon of War: The Democratic Republic of Congo and Beyond,” at 8 p.m. Wednesday, November 4, 2009, in the Auerbach Auditorium at St. Mary’s Hall. A reception will follow at the James P. Muldoon River Center.

The DRC, formerly called Zaire, a vast beautiful country of immense economic resources, has been ripped apart almost continuously since its 1960 independence from Belgium by civil war, despots, and corruption. Millions have died from war, disease, and malnutrition, particularly in the Eastern region. “During some of the most intense flare-ups in eastern Congo,” Prendergast said in a recent blog, “soldiers from as many as nine countries were involved in the fighting, opportunistically seeing Congo’s instability as the chance to get their hands on some of the country’s vast mineral wealth. The war served as a pretext for exploitation, which ultimately became a driving force behind the violence.”

And as often happens, the Congolese women are exploited the most. “Congo,” said Prendergast, “has the highest rate of sexual violence and systematic rape in the world.” Prendergast says he is encouraged by what appears to be a stronger commitment by the Obama administration to aid the Congolese and by the choice of President Obama as this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner. “It is enormously encouraging that the Nobel Committee chose its Peace Prize winner on the basis of the hope he instills and inspires around the world. Nowhere else is such engagement more pressing from a humanitarian and human rights standpoint than in Congo and Sudan, two of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman or a girl due to the prevalence of sexual violence.”

During the Clinton years, Prendergast was director of African Affairs at the National Security Council and special advisor at the Department of State. He authored eight books on Africa, including New York Times bestseller Not on our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond, and is finishing two more, one on his 25 years in the Big Brother program and one on human rights and peace activism. Prendergast co-founded the Enough Project in 2007 to promote peace; has taken journalists to Africa, including those from Nightline, 60 Minutes, and The Lehrer Newshour; and has produced a number of documentaries. The activist travels regularly to Africa's war zones on fact-finding missions, peace-making initiatives, and awareness-raising trips.

Each year, St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) invites an accomplished writer, journalist, or other professional figure to be the Nitze Senior Fellow and to make several visits to the campus to give lectures and meet with classes. Last year, former Washington Post correspondent T.R. Reid was the Nitze Fellow. Other previous Fellows include Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former lieutenant governor of Maryland; David Sanger, the New York Times chief correspondent for the White House; and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edward P. Jones.

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