Burundian Reflections on a Stay in Kinshasa
By Cyntia Ngendakuriyo
In 2011, I entered a program called Génération Grands Lacs (GGL), initiated by Search for Common Ground in the DRC. Every Saturday, we travel to meet young people from Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC. On February 18th, 2012, I was scheduled to represent GGL in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s more than 3,500 km away from where I live in Bujumbura.
From Bujumbura to Kinshasa, we went through Kigali and Goma, where I met people from Kinshasa. Since that day, I have been impressed by many things.
First of all, their curiosity impressed me. Most of the people I met did not hesitate one second to approach me to know who I was, because I had facial features a bit different from theirs. And when I spoke to them about my home country of Burundi, they all had a thirst for knowledge about the current situation. Their wish was that it all gets better. I was also struck by their way of communicating as open people, welcoming and always available to listen.
I found that the people of Kinshasa tend to hold onto their values. For example, in restaurants, supermarkets, or clubs, Congolese music is played more than 80% of the time. The people are committed to their traditions and morals; they identify themselves and have observed progress regarding the rebirth of their culture.
In Kinshasa, life is very expensive compared to Bujumbura, Goma and Kigali. I was surprised to see how big storekeepers or little storekeepers, normal or rich citizens managed to get by. For them, no activity is neglected if it can generate money and help provide for their needs!
Kinshasa is also a city where beggars and street children commonly called “shege” can be found. On the outskirts of the capital there are also working-class neighborhoods where you fear thieves and where the security is not totally guaranteed.
And who was there to give me directions or to warn me about certain dangers? The people from Kinshasa. People from Kinshasa, who are proud of their capital and conscience of the challenges they have to face; people who feel that we are part of a same region, which has encountered the same problems and where the governments and citizens are all involved.
In short, a whole week spent in Kinshasa that was nothing but rewarding for me…
Written by Cyntia Ngendakuriyo, a journalist for radio Isanganiro, Bujumbura-Burundi. Translated by Emilie Van Den Berkhof, an intern for SFCG’s Institutional Learning Team.