Moving to the Same Beat: Festival Bolsters Repatriation of 81,000 Congolese Refugees
The following article was written by Gervais Koffi Yao, Head of SFCG’s office in Dongo, DRC.
Under the three-way agreement signed by the Republic of Congo (RoC), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR), the repatriation of 81,000 DRC Congolese, who had been refugees in the Republic of Congo (RoC) since 2009, began on May 5, 2012. The first convoy carried 79 people to the center of Dongo in the Kungu Territory.
An important event for Équateur Province, SFCG organized special cultural and sporting activities in Dongo on the 5th and 6th. The first of these cultural activities included performances from the Enyélé, Munzaya, Bomboma (Bokonzi) and Monzombo folk groups from Dongo, who all put on interesting artistic shows for the large audience.
The Bobas, Lobalas and Mozombo ethnic groups were at the heart of the conflict in South Ubangi, yet SFCG was nonetheless able to bring them together in song and dance in the same location – and even got them to move to their rivals’ beats! It is worth noting that when SFCG began operations in Équateur Province in October 2010, these groups were at each others throats.
The next day, Sunday May 6th, a football match was organized between a mixed Munzaya/Enyélé/FARDC team and one from Dongo, made up of civilians and the military. It was indeed an historic moment. Mr. Gueguelé Augustin, a refugee and father of nine children, was visibly delighted with his return to Dongo:
“Seeing these dances and songs from our Bobas, Lobalas and Monzombo brothers together, I feel that reconciliation is finally in motion here in Dongo.”
In his closing remarks, the HCR Desk Chief Mr. Geert Van Casteele thanked SFCG’s initiatives in front of the 3500 or so spectators:
“In games, songs, and dance, SFCG has reassured us that reconciliation is alive…which will solidify the repatriation process we have witnessed here today.”