Excerpt of Not on Our Watch by Don Cheadle, John Prendergast
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Challenges and Choices
It was sometime round midnight in a little village in southern Sudan, and the only link to the rest of the world within a five-hundred-mile radius was one satellite phone, so when it rang it was a bit of a shock to everyone.
Don dispensed with the formalities. My man, you are not easy to find.
Obviously, hiding from you is not as easy as I thought, John countered.
Despite his attempt at a cool demeanor, John was excited. After Marlon Brando and Mickey Rourke (John is well aware that he has issues), Don was his favorite actor, and the fact that the two of them were about to go on a trip together to Chad and across the border into the western Sudanese region of Darfur was firing him up.
However, Don wasnt making a social call. He was concerned that the mission that we were going on with a bunch of members of Congress was only going to spend several hours in the refugee camps in Chad, and he wanted to stay longer. You gotta rescue it, Don instructed John.
John looked around to see what tools he had at his disposal in that little southern Sudanese village, but all he could hear was the ribbit, ribbit of the Sudanese frogs. I am in the middle of nowhere. Give me twelve hours.
A few hundred dollars of satellite phone calls later, a much more substantial and lengthy trip was planned. We also managed to get Paul Rusesabagina,* whom Don had portrayed in Hotel Rwanda, and Rick Wilkinson, a veteran producer for ABCs Nightline, to come with us and help interpret and chronicle our first journey together.
Our trip to witness the ravages of genocide in Darfur was not the first brush with that heinous crime for either of us. Don had visited Rwanda post-filming, and John had been in Rwanda and the refugee camps in Congo immediately after the genocide.
As we listened to the stories of the refugees who fled the genocide, we sensed what it might feel like to be hunted as a human being. These Darfurians had been targeted for extermination by the regime in Sudan on the basis of their ethnicity. Although well-meaning and thoughtful people may disagree on what to call it, for us the crisis in Darfur is one that constitutes genocide.
Enough is ENOUGH. We need to come together and press for action to end the violence in Darfur and prevent future crimes against humanity. Through simple acts and innovative collaborations, we can save hundreds of thousands of lives now.
That is our fervent hope, and our goal.
Darfur: A Slow-Motion Genocide
Genocide is unique among crimes against humanity or mass atrocity crimes because it targets, in whole or in part, a specific racial, religious, national, or ethnic group for extinction. According to the international convention, genocide can include any of the following five criteria targeted at the groups listed above:
- causing serious bodily or mental harm
- deliberately inflicting conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part
- imposing measures to prevent births
- forcibly transferring children from a targeted group.*
The perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda took one hundred days to exterminate 800,000 lives. This was the fastest rate of targeted mass killing in human history, three times faster than that of the Holocaust.
In mid-2004, one year into the fighting and six months before the trip Don and I took to Chad/Darfur, I went with Pulitzer Prizewinning author Samantha Power* to the rebel areas in Darfur. At the same time, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was visiting government-held areas in the region. But unlike Secretary Powell, Samantha and I went to the part of Sudan that the regime didnt want anyone to see, and for very good reason.
Excerpted from NOT ON OUR WATCH by Don Cheadle and John Prendergast. Copyright 2007 Don Cheadle and John Prendergast. All rights reserved. Published by Hyperion. Available wherever books are sold.