A photo series by Juan Haro

Amani Festival reunited more than 34,000 people in 3 days of music, dance, and culture to promote and demand peace in the still wounded North-Kivu region, east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

For more than two decades, the eastern region of DRC has been the epicenter of war, mass atrocities, poverty, and destruction. The well-known wealth in minerals and natural resources and the national and regional ethnic hostilities have left years of suffering to the Congolese people. It is in this context of instability that the meaning of ‘Amani’, peace in the Swahili language, gains more importance in a land tired of violence and conflict. The festival seeks to change the image of Goma, EasternDRC, and the Great Lakes region and show the world that the Congolese youth is motivated to demand a change in their lives.

‘Amani festival’ started and has grown as a family that brings together people and culture. It represents a space of celebration where citizens of the Great Lakes region can meet, think and commit themselves to a better common future. During 3 days, people from all the points of the East African region congregated to send a message against violence using music and arts as their only ammunition. The festival beat records of attendance compared with previous editions and is consolidating as one of the most acclaimed festivals in the African scene.

The performance led by the Burundian band, ‘Alfred and Bernard’, was a definite highlight. The band combined traditional instruments known as ‘umuduri’ with drums, bass, keyboards and electric guitars in what was a show ‘made in the hills’ of Burundi. ‘It is thanks to the Burundian people that our leaders are where they are now. This is the reason why they must respect us without any discrimination, we want reconciliation and solidarity for our country’ the band said to the press after the concert.

According to the festival organizers, 34,000 attendees, more than 100 NGOs, over 600 athletes, and 27 bands of Africa’s most esteemed musicians and artists took part in the 4th edition of the Amani Festival.

Music, art, spectacle, caravans, tents, and one-dollar tickets have been the instruments chosen for this edition to leave behind daily problems and after-effects of the war in an event of solidarity.

Festival-goers witnessed a big African party, a spirited festival of music where children, youth, families and foreigners danced non-stop.

Artists such as Jean Goubald, Boddhi Satva, Fabregas, DJ Amaroula, Mani Martin delighted the public and sent a message of peace for the future of eastern Congo.

Musical comedy group, the ‘invisibles’, also captured and wowed the crowds with their explosive performance.

The group of young dancers and actors aged between 5 and 20 years old, interpreted the brutality and consequences of the recruitment of children soldiers through powerful choreography and metaphoric theater.

Congolese are well known for the passion and intensity of their dances. The fearless artists of Amani Festival were aware of this and transmitted a great dosis of stamina to the crowd.

But the night before the festival started, the idiosyncrasy of this unrest country was made present in what it was supposed to be a celebration for peace. During an unprovoked altercation a policeman shot and killed one of the Amani festival volunteers.

The volunteer was called Norbert Paluku, nicknamed “Djoo”, a 30-year-old dancer, who leaves behind a widow and two children, aged 3 years and a few months. In an event that promoted peace and solidarity, the dark truths of a tumultuous country cannot be forgotten, and the name of ‘Djoo’ , will remain present in the memories of all the Amani family.

Despite the tragic turn of events the festival went on, and will continue to run next year. There is no way the region can move forward without peace and non-violent solutions. It is because of this that young volunteers and organizers are fully committed to land again in Goma for the 5th edition of Amani Festival.

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