Rose Bagwire will finish high school next year. The 18 year old student lives in Gisenyi, Rwanda. Only five kilometers away, François Bauma Ndole is attending the Institute for Rural Development in Goma, the Congolese sister city of Gisenyi. The 23 year old university student does not know Rose personally, but both of them sing the same rap song: “Our friends, our brothers, our sisters have died. Now it is enough. Give us peace, peace, peace”. The song was written by young Congolese and young Rwandans on the occasion of the International Day of Peace which the United Nations celebrates every year on the September 21.
In cooperation with other organizations, HEAL Africa invited 100 young people living in Rwanda and 100 young people living in Congo to workshops in Goma and Gisenyi where the students developed their vision of a peaceful future. They did so while dancing, playing theater, writing poems, singing and drawing pictures.
HEAL Africa is engaged in raising the mutual understanding between young Congolese and Rwandans. This is especially important now as new fighting is going on in Eastern Congo and the political relations between Congo and its neighbor Rwanda have deteriorated.
“Unfortunately our countries have a violent history”, says Rose. “But we as the young generation, we have the duty to build a peaceful future”, explains the young Rwandan woman. So she is extremely happy that HEAL Africa enabled a delegation of Rwandan students to cross the border to meet their fellows in Goma – and vice versa. The young people exchanged messages of peace which they had written before on postcards. For example: “What us unifies is much stronger than what divides us.” Or: “Our neighbors should come over and feel at ease with us.”
François strongly believes that he and his fellows can change the complicated relationship between Congolese and Rwandans. “We young people, we understand each other. We do not have prejudices against people of other tribes or other races. We have to stop tribalism in our region.” Rose shares the opinion of her Congolese counterpart. She says that the workshops HEAL Africa and the other human rights organizations put on have given her new motivation to fight peacefully for her future and a better life: “I know now that we young people have common goals and that my colleagues on the other side of the border are willing, like we are, to contribute to a change. Together we will arrive there.”