Interview with Christine Lunanga, Executive Director of CAMME, Congo
Is it possible to encourage peace in Africa?
Yes, it is definitely possible to encourage peace in Africa.
The more Africans are starting being united, the more they are starting to finding solutions to their own problems.
We can see that already through peaceful dialogues and economic coalitions.
Each region of Africa has a unique responsibility to participate in peace-building as part of the wholeness of the African continent. Each country in Africa has it’s own unique history and the wounds that need to heal from that history. My own country, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has it’s own unique history and needs it’s individual approach to heal from deep wounds of history and move forward into progress and peace.
The history of my country has been afflicted by European colonialism, African dictatorship, war, natural disaster and rogue exploitation.
Karim, in your article ‘Everything Starts Somewhere‘ for the African Peace Journal, you have helped to identify some of the deep historical wounds of my country, as a result of the European Scramble for Africa. Moreover, recent books, such as ‘Congo: The Epic History of a People’ also help to identify the struggles and the challenges of my country that have led to the present circumstances.
We need to see the present situation as an opportunity to heal the from the past and to build toward a future of peace.
What are you doing to encourage peace in Africa?
The concept of peace is relative for me.
I see it as the stability of mind and soul, as well as a fair and tolerant communication with persons around you and around the world.
As long as there is fighting in Africa, it is hard to say that Africans have peace right now, in the present. There is still a long way for us to go.
The main reason for all this fighting is because Africans forget sometimes that they are their own best solutions to their own worst problems.
As the Founder and Executive Director of CAMME, my team and I encourage peace in our African country, DRC, by educating the youth of Congo about peace building and leadership. We also teach them practical entrepreneurialism through the owning and managing of their own businesses and by encouraging peaceful, equitable exchange through fair trade markets. We teach everything from car mechanics for boys to sewing for girls.
CAMME in French, is “Centre d’Appui en faveur des Marginalise Mal Exploites”, in English, “Center to support Marginalized and Exploited youth”.
My team and I responded positively and peacefully to events of recent history: Since 1996 the DRC has faced a series of different conflicts, based on ethnicity. These conflicts have left behind widows, orphans, and hundreds of thousands people who are abandoned and displaced.
Many other people in Congo and in the African continent have also responded positively and peacefully to the unique challenges they face in their home countries in Africa. However, we rarely hear of these positive stories that come out of Africa. Stories of real courage and heroism.
Most of the victims of these conflicts are children who really don’t know where to go, who are literally lost. Lots of children lost their families and many end up in the street because there is no help. The government can’t protect it’s own people, and is often responsible for the violence itself.
At CAMME, we take care of orphans, vulnerable children from different backgrounds, and we teach them vocational training and employable skills, so they can help themselves in the future. We help them by giving a hand up and not a hand out. We restore and maintain their dignity.
Our goal is for these children to attain self-sufficiency and thus the dignity and self-confidence that results from becoming financially independent.
What can others do to encourage peace in Africa?
When I think of “others”, I see “the world” at large.
What the world can do is to highlight, encourage and support actions that Africans are taking already to attain peace.
The world should understand that we are coming from a long way and we are doing so much already to prevent having wars, hunger, famine, uneducated children, orphans, and children in the streets.
What we most need is recognition through this tough journey toward peace. Specifically, we need more recognition and awareness of how many African people are encouraging and pioneering local initiatives. There is so much good work being done in Africa. No matter which kind of government or leader one country or another can have, the majority of Africans are understanding that they cannot just sit around and wait for everything to trickle down from their country’s president. They are understanding that they need to take initiative and activate good work.
In order for real peace to be encouraged, and therefore accomplished, in Africa, the story of the past can no longer hold the story of the future.
— Zainab Salbi, African Peace Journal
Every African can play a unique part in seizing the opportunity and the responsibility of advocacy and compassion for a fellow African in need.
The world, and the media in particular, has a unique opportunity in seizing the responsibility to spotlight all the good work being done in Africa by those African people who are encouraging and pioneering worthy local initiatives. These stories need to be told and heard and honored.
Specifically what others can do to encourage peace in Africa is this: They can help tell a more honest and less sensationalized narrative of Africa.
As the previous interviewees in this series, Zainab, Purity and Wanjiru have all advocated, we all, as a global community and family, need to change the narrative of Africa. We Africans, such as my team and I in Congo, are changing that narrative away from war and conflict to productivity and peace. We now need the world, and the media, to recognize our positive efforts, rather than just fixate upon the negative.
As Zainab Salbi has articulated so beautifully in her inaugural interview for the African Peace Journal:
“In order for real peace to be encouraged, and therefore accomplished, in Africa, the story of the past can no longer hold the story of the future.”