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Great Lakes march, run and dance towards peace

2013 October 4
by sfcg

By Gabrielle Solanet

Burundi-kidsIt’s a party for peace!

Last weekend, Searchers and their partners across the world celebrated International Peace Day. In the Great Lakes of Africa, our local teams used fun activities to mobilize the masses and spread key messages of peace that transcended borders.

The Great Lakes have suffered from profound violence, particularly since the M23 insurgency took control of key areas in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 2012, reviving diplomatic tensions between the DRC and its neighbor, Rwanda, and causing the death and displacement of thousands of Congolese civilians. Against this backdrop, Search engaged local citizens into a series of activities aimed at promoting peace and social cohesion in communities across the region.

In the DRC:

JIP (422)

The Search North Kivu team organized a peace marathon across the city of Goma, conveying hope and peace to the population. Four hundred runners supported the cause. Marathoners held banners that read “Respect, Tolerance and Justice – My Combat for Peace”. Goma’s population cheered for them all along their route.  Following the race, 3,000 community members attended  peace concerts. Popular Congolese artists entertained the crowd, unified under the message: “I personally commit to peace, what about you?”

JIP (498)Parallel to the concerts, Search organized a “Seat Ball” Paralympics match where people with physical disabilities from Goma and Gisenyi (in neighboring Rwanda) competed against each other. Altogether, the marathon, concerts and Paralympics created social cohesion amongst divided populations.

“Today is the most beautiful day of my life in the past 20 years,” Jean-Robert N’Senga, Coordinator of CIVIS CONGO, a local civic rights association.

The Kivu team also brought several international and local NGOs together to celebrate in the festivities, including Goma’s Youth Cultural Center, the Youth Movement for Change, International Alert, the United Nations’ Refugee Agency and many others.

 “Today’s initiatives demonstrated the victory of courage over fear and of unity over exclusion. Peace is a long and challenging process, but it is by taking steps forward, like today, that this dream of peace will one day become a reality,”Vianney Bisimwa, Peace & Reconciliation Officer at SFCG-Goma.

IMG_0111Meanwhile, in South Kivu Search organized a public radio and TV debate, revealing how people can positively bring peace to the DRC and support its democratic institutions. The debate triggered an open dialogue between university students, military and police officers, Congolese civil society organizations, representatives from the Governorate of South Kivu, and the UN Mission to the DR Congo. It will broadcast on the Congolese

National Radio Television Channel, the North and South Kivu Radio Television Channel, and TV Vision SHALA throughout the entire month of October 2013.

In Burundi:

Search mobilized 700 Burundian youth across dividing lines in a big march for peace across the capital, Bujumbura. The march burundi youth marchengaged youth from scouts’ movements, civil society, political parties’ youth wings, and representatives from the Burundian Ministry of Youth. The march passed through symbolic places in Bujumbura’s city center, finishing at the scouts’ headquarters.  There the youth participated in peace-themed games, poems, and theater competitions. The activity received vast media coverage from national TV and radio stations, bringing together media from different editorial lines to cover the event.

In Rwanda:

Search in Rwanda produced three radio spots for peace. The first spot asked Rwandan celebrities (musicians, actors, and religious leaders) the question: “What does peace mean to you?” The second spot asked ordinary people to describe “what other people do for you to favor peace.” While the third spot focused on peaceful collaboration with the core message: “one’s neighbor is also a brother.” The three spots are currently being broadcast on four community radio stations and two national radio stations. In addition to the radio spots, SFCG: Rwanda also supported peace efforts led by the Rwandan government’s National Unity and Reconciliation Commission to celebrate International Peace Day by providing t-shirts to the participants in the different activities organized across Kigali’s universities.


At the regional level:

Search’s regional live youth radio program Generation Great Lakes dedicated its Saturday show to International Peace Day. Journalists based in DRC, Rwanda, and Burundi covered  all of these peace events live, and they aired simultaneously on our partner radio stations across the three countries. Youth from the region heard how their peers across the border mobilized for peace, shared the obstacles that they encountered, identified together possible solutions towards regional peace, and defined the role of youth in this process.

“Congolese, Rwandan and Burundian populations should look first at what unifies them, not what divides them,” GGL listener from Kigali, Rwanda


Gabrielle Solanet is a Regional Project Coordinator with Search for Common Ground. Based out of Brussels, she coordinates two regional projects in the Great Lakes’ region of Africa and one project in Ethiopia


One Response leave one →
  1. Alicia permalink
    October 4, 2013

    This is so exciting! I love seeing what you all did to celebrate and make a statement in your countries!

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