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Music festival in DRC to promote peace in Africa’s Great Lakes region
Published: Feb 07, 2022 06:24 PM
Cuban French jazz band performs at the Jazzkiff festival.Photo: AFP

Cuban French jazz band performs at the Jazzkiff festival.Photo: AFP

Band members rehearse on June 13, 2019 in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ahead of the Jazzkiff festival on June 14, 2019.Photo: AFP

Band members rehearse on June 13, 2019 in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ahead of the Jazzkiff festival on June 14, 2019.Photo: AFP

A fiesta was in full swing in Goma, a major city in northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as the Amani music festival finally returned despite the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the restlessness of decade-long turmoil.

Under the optimistic slogan "Playing for Change, Singing for Peace," the Amani music festival, meaning "peace" in Swahili, has been reuniting African artists to bring people of Africa's Great Lakes region together through music.

The fiesta returns

Despite the pandemic, the fiesta finally returned after a one-year hiatus to Goma, a populated city that sits near DRC's frontiers with Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda.

This time's event, under the theme "engage yourself, let us engage," kicked off on Friday, following a cancellation in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Celebrations were in the air in the city, as visitors inside and outside the DRC were only a negative COVID-19 test away from the three-day fiesta full of music and dances over the weekend.

First run in 2013, the festival is held annually and lasts for three days in February of each year. According to the organizers, about 10,000 young people from Goma and the nearby Rwandan city of Gisenyi pack into the festival that brings together rumba artists and rappers on stage. "I am thrilled," said Mumbere Mbondi, big fan of the festival from Goma, expressing his excitement that the music festival made the hard-won comeback. 

"This year the organizers have done their best to make this event possible," Mbondi said.

Hymn for peace

Apart from shows and parties, the festival, which opened its doors Friday, aims in particular to bring together people from different backgrounds through culture in a festive space, especially in the city that has been under the state of siege for about seven months.

"The Amani festival aims to make culture a unifying element of peaceful cohabitation, of living together," Guillaume Bismiwa, director of the festival told press.

Tubuni Patient, a music lover from Goma, said that the festival puts aside the differences through art.

Even before the curtains were raised, over 20 artists from Africa's Great Lakes region gathered in Goma to work on a peace anthem, which was planned to be debuted at the festival.

As the piece of music is made up of several languages of the region, artists from different countries decide to break the barrier and pitch in, to work on the song that aims to made people forget their identities.

"It is the anthem of brotherhood or peace. These are words that we have found in perfect union and harmony with the artists of several communities in the DRC, Rwanda and Burundi, with whom we have worked hard," said Thomas Lusango, art director of the song, noting that the anthem will be sung in Swahili, Kinyarwanda, Kirundi and other mother tongues in the region.

"In this anthem, the message we send is about union and unity. When we are divided, it is easy to be destroyed. But when we are united, we can win. My message is about staying together to overcome all these tendencies that could divide us," explained the Rwandan singer Victoire Lcyitegetse.

Africa's Great Lakes region has long suffered from violence and conflicts. 

In eastern DRC alone, more than 3,800 people have been killed in 1,817 armed attacks in 2021, according to the Kivu Security Tracker, a monitor on eastern DRC.