Playing football in the Dukire Tubane Project

By Elie Nahimana, Coordinator

Innovations in Peacemaking — Burundi

The chief of Kamenge zone (woman in yellow dress) with the assistant to the Bujumbura Catholic Bishop (on left) launch a football match opposing Ngagara, Cibitoke and Kamenge zones in Bujumbura.

Introduction: The peacemaking Quakers in Burundi have always been very creative in using football (soccer in the US) as a tool for peacemaking and reconciliation among the youth. Here is a report by Elie Nahimana, Coordinator of Innovations in Peacemaking – Burundi (IPB), on an activity of using football to illustrate an important lesson in peacemaking, namely that unity is much more peaceful than animosity. With all the big divisions in the United States and England at this time, this report can be a metaphoric example.

This football peacemaking is part of a larger project called Dukire Tubane which means “Let’s be healed and live together.” This project is part of a subcontract that IPB/HROC has with Catholic Relief Services and supported by funding from USAID.

In response to the 2015 Burundi election crisis, USAID sponsored the Dukire Tubane project of Catholic Relief Services–Burundi. This project aims at strengthening the resilience and cohesion of Burundian youth, targeting the provinces of Bujumbura Mairie and Bubanza, which were directly affected by the violence in 2015. Activities of the project include trauma healing and social cohesion workshops among youth as well as between youth and local authorities, forming youth savings groups, and developing entrepreneurial skills to strengthen resilience.

The Dukire-Tubane project activities are using the Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC) methodology, which since 2014 has been implemented by Catholic Relief Services in the Central African Republic and parts of The Democratic Republic of the Congo.

As part of the project a Training for Trainers in trauma healing was organized to empower seventeen community leaders and the project staff as well as thirty community healing companions to help address the trauma of youth victims of the violent events where the project operates. This contributes to a sustainable social cohesion among them and the surrounding community.

Implemented by the Commission Episcopal Justice et Paix (CDJP) of the Cathholic church, HROC Burundi is the trauma healing services provider for the Dukire Tubane project.  Beside trauma healing workshops, HROC Burundi was present during the social cohesion workshops to speak on trauma and its negative consequences on social cohesion in Burundi today. After conducting workshops, community celebrations were organized to bring participants together with members of the community at large, as well as local authorities, to build awareness of healing initiatives taking place in their community to reach lasting social cohesion.

The community celebrations followed an action plan of sensitization elaborated by participants during different workshops and trainings mentioned above. Playing football was listed by participants in their action plans as a number one tool of mobilization to bring different communities and identity groups together in order to conduct a sensitization. [This means the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups which are the two sides of the conflicts in both Burundi and Rwanda. DZ]

Teams wearing a Dukire Tubane football uniforms.

Since this football game was envisioned as rebuilding social cohesion, its organization followed two standards: the FIFA standard and the peacebuilding standard.

How were these applied? The first half (45 minutes) was dedicated to a competitive match under FIFA soccer’s regulations. This was a match opposing two different identity groups [i.e., Hutu and Tutsi] and was a win-lose one. During the second half, the two identity groups had to mix their players where half of the players from one group were mixed with half of the players from the other group and vice-versa.

After the ninety minutes soccer play, all players had to brainstorm what was positive or negative in the two different methods of playing.

In the first half play, comments included:

The first match looked like fighting.

Violence was applied in it.

Many yellow cards were given to those who made mistakes.

No lady was accepted to play in the first match.

The first match was stressful.

A lot of mistakes characterized the first part.

A plan to eliminate those who were more talented than others was developed in order to remain competitive with weak players in both identity groups.

In the second half play with peacebuilding standards, comments included:

A positive and peaceful mood characterized the play.

The match looked like that of professionals.

No pressure at all.

Few mistakes were observed and no yellow or red cards were given.

Women played along with men.

The HROC national coordinator sensitizing the community present on why healing from trauma, social cohesion, and economic resilience must be connected today in their community and their role to succeed.

A CRS staff members addresses the players and spectators on peacemaking.

Following the two images of the footfall match, speeches were delivered by representatives of CRS, CDJP, and HROC. The CRS representative presented the Dukire Tubane project in length while the CDJP coordination team representative underlined the need to rebuild social cohesion and why playing this kind of specific football match responds to it. The HROC representative focused on trauma understanding. He expressed on how, “What we have done, seen, heard, and experienced that wounded deeply our hearts are influencing negatively our behavior, emotions, thoughts, and our physical condition.”  Coming back to the football match, he showed how the negative behaviors expressed during the first match were consequences of the traumatic events experienced. It was an opportunity to present to those who participated in the football match the community healing companions and their role in their communities. He invited people to consult those community healing companions when needed.

Lunch given to the participants.

A word of thanks was given by the local authority representative of the area, the ceremonies were closed by food and drinks sharing, and participants expressed their joy through singing and dancing. I still remember many groups singing Sinogenda ntashimye meaning I can’t leave without expressing my thanks and joy to God, a Catholic song that is becoming common for participants in the sensitization activities.

The assistant of the Bujumbura Catholic Bishop distributing balls to the Kamenge chief of zone and representatives of Ngagara and Cibitoke zones plus the police chief of the three zones.

After each match a distribution of the same number of balls was given to local leaders to keep organizing football matches as a way of permitting both local authorities, community leaders, community healing companions, and the loans and savings team’s leaders to meet together with the whole community to sensitize all about peaceful coexistence.

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