Merci, 15, witnessed the violence and killings that ravaged the Province of Tanganyika, in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “We heard noises coming from the village and when we got there, we saw terrible scenes,” the teen recalls. Many of the residents had been killed by arrows and the village was deserted. “My friends and I fled,” continued Merci. After walking for a short time, he found his parents and together they continued to the Lukwangulo camp.
In January 2018, the government decided to relocate the camp to Kikumbe, 16 km north of the city of Kalemie. Once there, Merci soon joined the “Teens for development club” and was introduced to the prevention, management and peaceful resolution of conflicts. With 30 other children aged 9 to 17, Merci organized performances to talk about violence, conflict and theft. “Children and adults came together,” the proud teen told us. Elected as Vice-President of the club, Merci is often call on to mediate when disputes and misunderstandings arise.
Since UNICEF provided the Club with recreational kits, extra activities have been organized each Saturday. Footballs, tennis equipment, marbles, skipping ropes and card games draw all the camp’s children. Merci and the other members of the Club make the most of the half-time break in a football match to raise the players’ awareness of the peaceful resolution of differences.
Merci has become a true ambassador of peace in the camp, where none of the children go to school. Before they would just go with their parents to the forest to collect wood but now the camp’s children have their own activities: plays, singing, games and sport. “I forget my bad memories of the conflict and I live well with the people in the camp,” concludes the teen, certain that one day the Pygmies and the Bantu will live in peace.
Merci was a student in the 5th grade of primary school in his village and he hopes to be able to return to the classroom soon. UNICEF is in the process of building a school at the camp. At the start of next term, Merci and his friends will be able to get back to school. “My dream is to become a teacher,” he confesses. Merci wants to continue to promote cohesion, understanding and harmony.
Mandela Longa Ntutula
Ancien Enfant Reporter de Kalemie formé par l’UNICEF, Mandela Longa Ntutula est aujourd'hui journaliste et continue son combat en encadrant la nouvelle génération d’Enfants Reporters.
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