“We are here because we want peace”

15 children, 11 provinces, 3 days: the countdown to Bujumbura is on in the DRC.

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Keulliana, 14 years old, is DRC Ambassador for Peace for the Province of Kinshasa. (c) UNICEF RDC / Adrien Majourel / 2014

This past weekend in the Congolese capital Kinshasa, the National Hope Forum was held, bringing together the 15 children selected by the 11 provinces in the DRC. From Friday morning to Sunday night, these children aged 12 to 17 years learnt and discussed about the theme of Peace.

Up till midnight, passionate debates resounded in the small Caritas meeting room. According to Keulliana, 14, “Children are the future and the future doesn’t wait”.

The agenda was varied: the political situation, law, culture and media, many topics were discussed. The Forum was opened by the Coordinator for the National Follow-up Mechanism for the Framework for Peace, Security and Cooperation in the DRC and the Region, the Secretary General for Gender and the UNICEF Representative in the DRC, Mrs Barbara Bentein.

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The Coordinator for the National Follow-up Mechanism for the Framework for Peace, Security and Cooperation in the DRC and the Region, the Secretary General for Gender and UNICEF Representative in the DRC, opened DRC National Forum. (c) UNICEF RDC / Adrien Majourel / 2014

It is important to go beyond tolerance, towards appreciation of differences,” declared Mrs Bentein in her opening speech. The 7 girls and 8 boys proved that they excelled in the art of sharing and openness towards others. This was revealed in the success principle of Leslie, 17, from Oriental Kasai: “The key to peace? Dialogue. Let’s listen to one another.”

The children received firsthand information about key issues to prepare them. The special adviser from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) explained the Framework (signed by 12 Great Lakes countries in order to achieve peace) and its regional implications to them. Next, the special adviser for the National Framework Follow-up Mechanism shared with them its stage of development in the DRC. UNICEF specialists introduced them to peace education and tools to share their convictions, such as social media and presentations. The children’s motivation in this training promises great outcomes.

Hervé, 17, from Occidental Kasai, was passionate about the contribution of education to peace, concluding, “A nation’s greatness comes through the school doors”.

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“When you don’t know where you go, look where you come from” Romance, Youth Ambassador for Peace for the Province of Katanga and Hervé Youth Ambassador for Peace for the Province of Kasai Occidental. Photo: UNICEF RDC / Adrien Majourel / 2014

For most children, it was their first time in Kinshasa, and the weekend was quite filled. Apart from theory and obtaining passports for Bujumbura, a visit to the Bilembo cultural centre familiarised these 15 representatives of the DRC with the vast cultural wealth of their country. A press conference followed by a show on national television station RTNC even allowed them to familiarise themselves with the media.

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DRC Youth Ambassadors on RTNC’s TV Show “La Voix de l’enfant”. Photo: UNICEF RDC / Adrien Majourel / 2014

As part of the key results of the meeting, the young peace ambassadors created a Memorandum and a “postcard” of their country. At the Bujumbara forum from 30th May to 1st June, they will present it to the children of the other signatory countries (Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Angola, Central African Republic, Republic of the Congo, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia).

But the main result is the formation of a strong and cohesive team of friends who share the same conviction: the certainty that the time for change is here. Deo, 16, from Bandundu, summarises it thus: “If we are here now, it is because we want Peace.”

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All 15 DRC Youth Ambassador with their trainers in front of Kinshasa Central’s Station. Photo: Junior / Lens Agency / 2014

They will reunite at the end of May for the next stage: the Hope Forum in Bujumbura.

Until then, find us here for more news next week, and follow the children’s thoughts at http://childrensforumofhope.tumblr.com/

On February 24th 2013, recognising the perils of recurring cycles of conflict and violence which persist in the DRC, eleven African countries signed the Framework Agreement for peace, security and cooperation in the DRC and the Great Lakes region. Faced with the reality that children are at the heart of any peace which seeks to be sustainable, UNICEF has been working since February 2014 to put together the “Peace Forum”, a platform through which children can express themselves for this Peace which will determine their future and in order to effectively contribute to it. From May 31 to June 1 children from the 11 signatory countries will meet in Bujumbura to put together their message to the Heads of State.

Follow the Forum of Hope on:

- Its dedicated Blog : Tumblr

- Day after day, minute after minute, on : Twitter

- All the pictures are on: Flickr

- Regular updates on our : Facebook  

 More articles about the Forum of Hope on Po na Bana (In French):

Le Forum de l’espoir a débuté à Kinshasa

Forum de l’espoir: le compte à rebours à commencé en RDC

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