Artists from the Congo and the Great Lakes sub-region got thousands of festival goers dancing with songs calling for peace and reconciliation in a region plagued by armed conflict for more than two decades.
“I know that through our dance we have launched a message of peace which must return to the country, the songs sung are also about peace and it is a great message,” says Abonimana Gérard, president of Dangakaranga Cultural Association, group from Burundi.
For three days, artists such as the Belgian Burundian Joy Goia or Innoss’B from the DRC, the Senegalese Didier Awadi and several local dance groups entertained the crowds.
“The Amani festival is going very, very well, we’re in the mood of the festival,” says Pascaline Angelina, festival goer from Bukavu.
Amani means peace in Swahili.
The 9th edition of the festival had to be relocated for the first time to Bukavu, in the east of the country, for security reasons.
Usually held in Goma, the event couldn’t go ahead in its stronghold because of the M23 rebels gaining ground in neighbouring North Kivu.
“This cultural moment also makes it possible to give expression to young people at the national and regional level, to say that it is too much, for a moment, we must stop everything and it is very important to be able to continue to live so as not to give strength and power to this situation that we deplore,” says Guillaume Bisimwa, organiser, of the Amani festival.
Patrick Mundeke, a festival goer from Goma, thinks the festival should have happened in Goma regardless.
“The wounded people of Goma came en masse to Bukavu to attend the festival,” he says.
“It’s a pity that the military authorities of Goma said they were not able to secure 30,000 people when they are supposed to protect a province of more than 10 million inhabitants and the population of Goma came to Bukavu, and also that of Bukavu.”
According to the organisers, 25,000 people attended the three-day event from 9-12 February.
The Amani festival is the biggest cultural event in the eastern part of the DRC.