On Wednesday evening the UMass political group "Save Darfur" and "Amnesty International," sponsored "Raise Hope for the Congo," an event to be held in Bartlet 65 featuring journalist and former member of the Clinton administration, John Prendergast. Prendergast is co-chair of the "ENOUGH Project," which is an initiative to end genocide and crimes against humanity.
Prendergast was also joined by physician Dr. Mukwege (After another guest cancelled - UN Goodwill Ambassador Jimmie Briggs,) who works helping rape victims in the only all-women hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo - The Panzi Hospital. The event was to concentrate on the current crisis in the Congo, which has played host to "The world's deadliest conflict since World War II," and to especially shine a harsh light on the fact that the militias in eastern Congo are using sexual violence against women and girls as a weapon and tool to advance their play to destroy communities and exert tight control over natural resources.
Prendergast was the first to speak, and he gave a fairly succinct, history and summary of the crisis that has spanned 12 long years and has resulted in the deaths of 45,000 each month. That specific number comes from Prendergast and the "RAISE Hope for Congo" campaign, which is a specific project push of ENOUGH. This number of supposed dead seemed to spark the small flame of contention that had been simmering quietly in the 10th row from the front of the stage.
Once Mr. Prendergast, the good doctor and Candice Knezevic, the manager of the Enough campaign finished their presentation, the event was opened up to questions from the small audience and answers from the guests. After a fairly uncontroversial question posed to Prendergast - (How do we go about punishing the rebel militia leaders when the 'RAISE Hope..' movement in itself preaches peace & understanding,) a white, medium statured, bald man with a white, tucked-in T shirt, large vein bulging in his neck and black artisan glasses shot up from his seat like a Jack 'n' the Box that was wound too tightly by some snotty-nosed kid.
"WHY DON'T YOU TELL THE TRUTH JOHN," he yelled as the audiences' blood pressure rocketed. "WHY DON'T YOU TELL US WHAT YOUR REALLY ABOUT?" he screamed as he turned to face the people seated behind him. From what I could understand, once I regained my composure, was that this man believed Prendergast and others in the U.S. government were somehow involved in keeping the violent fighting going and ultimately profiting from it. "JOHN KNOWS WHO I AM! TELL THE REAL TRUTH. THE NUMBER OF DEAD IS MORE LIKE TEN MILLION!" Not the 5.5 million the journalist, author and activist proposed during his talk.
A number of male students in the audience began to yell at the man to "shut the **** up, and leave." A teacher approached him and asked him politely to go, but the passionate man refused until "PEOPLE START ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS. WHY IS IT SO HARD TO TELL THE TRUTH JOHN!" At about this point two African American women in the 3rd row began to loudly proclaim that although he might be going about it in the wrong way, he was right. This validation seemed to calm the bald, non- UMass student. A visibly shaken John Prendergast began to answer another question posed from a soft-spoken audience member. - "Who do the Congolese want as a leader in their government, and how can the U.S. administration help? - As he started to respond - "THE ADMINISTRATION...! OH MAN. THE TRUTH JOHN," the 10th row shook.
"Man, we have some really disruptive people here today. Well we tried," the activist said as he abruptly grabbed his notes and T-Mobile cell, got up and left the stage as the rest of the audience clapped loudly, apparently attempting to provide their own validation to themselves and the ruined night.