Currently based in Kigali, Rwanda, I'm a freelance journalist originally from Goma, Eastern DRC, but covering the Great Lakes and East Africa region. The BBC, Radio France International and the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle are some of the world class media houses I have worked with.
The Rwandan Hutu rebel group that has been battling the government in Kigali for the past twenty years has taken what it says is the first step in disarming its fighters and starting a political fight instead.
At a ceremony on Friday May 30 at Buleusa in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo more than 100 fighters of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, FDLR, surrendered and handed in their weapons.
But the FDLR warned that continuing the process of peace depends upon the government of Rwandan President Paul Kagame agreeing to talks.
The leader of the rebel group General Victor Byiringiro said “We call up on the International community to help us get an open dialogue with the Rwandan Government”.
The Hutu led FDLR is made up of former Rwandan Army soldiers and Hutu militia who fled the country after the 1994 genocide and found refuge in Congo.
Lieutenant Colonel, Omari Ujani, representative of the SADC, Southern African Development Community promised surrendering combatants and their dependents security. He announced the creation of a joint commission to make sure their demobilization process is effective. Omari also assured them of SADC diplomatic support for their political reintegration in Rwanda. “As you freely decided to lay down your guns, we don’t want you to go back in jungle disturbing locals’ peace”, he said.
The surrendering combatants will wait in a transit camp in Kanyabayonga, a village near Congo's Virunga National Park, before being relocated in Equateur province.
After witnessing how many talents were wasted in James Town, Accra’s oldest area, Slum due to lack of opportunity, artist Franklin Owusu, 38, known by his stage name Kali Process, created Ehehia (pronounced Ehenia), a dance group to empower the disadvantaged youth.
He created the group in 1999 and they were focusing on Cultural dance but inserted Hip Hop in 2011 when they started aiming global. Thanks to money collected locally from other members of the group, they are able to pay school fees, health care and even clothes for some dancers. Now, many of these young people are seen as role models in the local community and dream of taking the pride of their slum on international level through Hip Hop.
The video contains an interview with Franklin Owusu about why he started the group and his dream about it, an interview with two dancers and some shots from their live performance as well as social life in James Town.
"We congratulate you for taking this wise decision to disarm. We will
never tolerate some of you returning to the forest to disturb peace.
SADC will accompany you in your political integration process and will
ensure that the agreed resolutions are respected. "
Lieutenant Colonel Omari Ujani, Southern African Development Community representative
FDLR's interim president, Victor Biringiro shaking hands with North Kivu's vice governor, Feller Lutaichirwa, after their 20 year old rebellion in Buleusa, eastern DR Congo.
"No one in this world can claim to build his country by taking up arms "Now that you become civilians , you have the possibility of claiming your right to political participation. The Congolese government will
ensure that you and your dependents are safe and do not miss anything."
Feller Lutaichirwa, Northen Kivu Vice-Governor
Family members of FDLR rebels singing and dancing at the surrendering ceremony at Buleusa, DR Congo on May 30, 2014.
Surrendering FDLR combatant sings and dances with a member of his family to express his joy for having the support of the international community during the official ceremony in Buleusa, DR Congo on May 30, 2014.
North Kivu vice governor, Feller Lutaichirwa , Ray Torres and head of office Monusco Goma, inspecting weapons handed over by Rwandan FDLR combatants during their surrendering ceremony in Buleusa, DR Congo on May 30, 2014.
FDLR's interim president, Victor Biringiro signs a declaration ending their armed insurgency and leaving his troops and their dependents in the hands of the Southern African Development Community and the Congolese government at Buleusa on May 30, 2014.
Victor Biringiro, FDLR’s interim president, during the surrendering ceremony in Buleusa, DR Congo on May 30, 2014.
" We lay down our weapons because we want the SADC to help us win an inter-Rwandan frank, sincere and highly inclusive dialogue. We need a
secure space to freely exercise our right to political participation".
FDLR's interim president, Victor Biringiro completes a review of his surrendering contingent before handing them over to the Southern African Development Community at Buleusa, DR Congo on May 30, 2014..
Family members of the FDLR combatants watch the surrendering ceremony at Buleusa, DR Congo on May 30, 2014.
One hundred and five surrendering FDLR combatants at the Kateku primary school where the official ceremony with the international community representatives was held in Buleusa, DR Congo on May 30, 2014..
Ammunition surrendered by FDLR combatants to the Southern African Development Community and the Congolese government at the ceremony in Buleusa, DR Congo on May 30, 2014.
The DRC’s head of demobilisation program, General Delphin Kayimbi and SADC representative, Lieutnant Colonel Omari Ujani, at the FDLR surrendering ceremony at Beleusa, DR Congo on May 30, 2014..
North Kivu Vice Governor Feller Lutaichirwa, Ray Torres, MONUSCO Goma’s head of office, and François Rukolera, FDLR president advisor walk up to the compound where the Rwandan rebels surrendering ceremony will take place at Buleusa, DR Congo on May 30, 2014.
UN helicopters carrying the Congolese government, SADC and MONUSCO representatives land at Buleusa, DR Congo for the FDLR surrendering ceremony on May 30, 2014..
Surrendering FDLR combatants lay down their weapons and hand over 102 guns to the Southern Africa Development Community, SADC, as the Congolese government and the UN mission witness the ceremony in Buleusa, DR Congo on May 30, 2014.
For the past 27 years, Dufina Tabu has been a human rights activist in Goma, a city in eastern DRC. For his efforts, he’s been imprisoned seven times. In turn, he’s been instrumental in improving the living conditions of inmates at Munzenze central prison.
This Mutwanga resident, in Beni territory, is still suffering the aftermath of the massacre committed by Ugandan ADF rebels in December 2013 in the region. These rebels bandonned him in the jungle after trying to kill him with machetes. They left thinking he was dead. The Congolese army and theUN intervention brigade are conducting military operations against the ADF islamist group.