Struggling for peace in a troubled context


by Landry Ninteretse
Kamenge Youth Centre continues to play a key role in reconciliation and home rebuilding in the five northern communes of Bujumbura by organizing habitual work camps which gather thousands of participants.
This year however, things were not easy for a number of reasons. Firstly, the prolonged strike in public secondary schools has disorganized academic schedules and meant that many students were not available to fully take part in the work camp activities. Secondly, the political and security tensions surrounding the contested communal election results led to grenade attacks in Bujumbura and other provinces, provoking terror and fear amongst the population. Thirdly, a lack of funding caused delay to the start of the camp.
This difficult context did not however, hamper the Kamenge Youth Centre’s determination. The first camp in a series of five was entitled ‘‘Democracy’’ and ended on June 26th. Two-hundred-and-eighty youth and facilitators took part and 52,582 bricks were produced to rebuild the homes of internally displaced people. Working sessions covered topics including; elections, democracy, conflict management, ecology, family, teamwork, cinema and sports. On the final day, prizes were awarded for competitions in poetry, drawing and musical arts. Finally school materials were distributed to all participants. The second camp is due to start on July 6th, with ten volunteers from Italy, Switzerland and the Netherlands also expected.
The Centre also markerd Music day from June 19 to 21 with a mega concert where 22 groups performed. This event was described as ‘‘a real testimony of people willing to live peacefully’’. One organizer commented that ‘‘while in other parts of the country people are preparing their arms, here at the Centre we are having a party because we want to live and continue to dream and hope. It’s a great testimony from northern quarters of Bujumbura and we are proud of it’’. Several other activities are scheduled up to August including seminars on democracy and the Bible; as well as income generating activities for communities.
Kamenge Youth Centre demonstrates an inspiring example of people committed to not allowing efforts to achieve peace to be compromised by political tensions and manipulation.

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