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Serge Mapendano, Beni

For me, peace is not a utopia.

Serge, citizen and campaigner

War survivor, peace ambassador, coordinator of "Action for Peace in Africa" , Serge Mapendano Kasereka represents both the difficulties and the hopes for D.R. Congo. Now committed to the actions of his organisation, he looks back at his past and his fight with clarity and with one goal on the horizon: peace.

Placing his past in service of peace

Serge is a Rutshuru war survivor in North-Kivu. Forced to go into exile, he speaks about the endless walks to escape combats and the difficult situations he was confronted with: "after we fled Kiwanja, we walked for more than 100 km by foot. During this journey, we saw children who were born during the war. It was very sad". It is then that Serge made a brave choice, the one of refusing that children would only know of war and not of peace in all their life. A challenge, in a country confronted with endless conflict and armed combat.
[my past] gave me the courage to say; we have to turn this suffering in peace' and to create an organisation with young victims of armed conflicts in the east of D.R. Congo but who, as of now, will be peace ambassadors.
This idea, to let his own experience be at the service of peace, by making young people peace ambassadors, is the cornerstone of his actions.

The military/civilian reconciliation

The first thing that shocked him, is the ever so visible mistrust existing between armed forces and the population.
We felt that there is a gap between the military and civilians.
Serge decided that this would be his first point of action. In order to explain the situation, he remembers "in my district, I always saw young people thinking that if they see a soldier, they had to escape. We felt like enemies". From this situation, he decided to focus on a better mutual understanding, which can be a guarantee of peace.
It is in this context that we thought, as young peace ambassadors, that it is of primary importance to reinforce the cohesion between the local civilian population and the armed forces of D.R. Congo. We could physcially feel the distrust between civilians and soldiers.

Some successful initiatives

Despite a difficult beginning, Serge and his peace ambassadors' efforts have become quickly very effective.
"One day, I came to a soldier, I explained the project. He said 'no, no, when we come to your quarters, you consider us as enemies, as if we are not part of you'. I looked for meeting his manager, and he did recognise our initiative".
Nowdays, he can already and with pride give numerous examples of projects realised in collaboration with soldiers and civilians.
We play football games with the military (...) and together do community work every Friday".
Those actions would have never happened without the organisation and the commitment of its ambassadors. Finally, it's by creating a link, by learning to know each other, that the results began to come.

Peace: a goal worth to set out

Even if he is proud of his achievements, Serge remains realistic. To achieve a long term peace in D.R. Congo, it is necessary to work and to keep hope:
It was not easy, but with our shared commitment we succeed. For me, peace is not a utopia. Truely, when I think about everything we do, I say to myself that we are still at the beginning.
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