African musicians sing for peace at Amani festival in eastern Congo

Thousands of people from across the African Great Lakes Region attended the Amani festival in Goma over the weekend. Amani, which means peace in Swahili has been organised for a second year to try and change the story of a country mired by conflict and to give residents hope for peace.

GOMA, DRC (FEBRUARY 14, 2015) (REUTERS) – The second edition of the Festival Amani was held over the weekend in Goma, the capital of North Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The three days of festivities attracted over 12,000 people, from all over the Great Lakes region.

Amani, which means peace in Swahili is the main message behind the festival. This year’s theme was “playing for change, dancing for peace”.

Some of Africa’s top musicians perform at the festival including Mali’s Habib Koite and Congo’s own Kalomnji aka Bill Clinton.

Renowned Ivorian musician and activist, Tiken Jah Fakoly also took the stage, giving his signature electric performances to a roaring audience.

He urged Congolese musicians to play a greater role in promoting peace in their country.

“Our ancestors fought slavery and gave us freedom. Our parents fought colonialism, they gave us independence. It’s up to us today to do everything we can to give peace and stability to our children. I think that only through peace and a stable Africa will attract the rest of the world to come and invest in our continent and our youth,” he added.

Eastern Congo has been gripped by armed conflicts for more than two decades.

Goma, the venue of the festival has been at the epicenter of the unrest. Regional politics and conflicts have persisted, culminating in the brief capture of Goma by rebel group M23 in November 2012.

With relative peace now in Goma, organisers hope that this festival will set a tone for reconciliation.

“The aim is to bring together different nationalities and ethnicities from the Great Lakes to celebrate peace and reconciliation and to call for change and for a better future, for millions of people in this region who deserve more than what they have endured in the last 20 to 35 years,” said Amani festival organiser, Eric de Lamotte.

Many residents hope that this festival can show a different side of Goma, one that offers hope.

“For me, this means peace for eastern Congo, I don’t want war, war in eastern DRC, where the women and girls are raped, young people finish school and can’t find employment. So we want peace in the east and the whole of DRC. Peace,” said one Goma resident, Irene Karume.

Organisers also used the opportunity to showcase the region’s art and cuisine.