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Desbon dancing
Dance at the activity day in Baraka, DR Congo

'Football Between Communities' project in DR Congo

Football Unites coach Desbon Bushiri has been instrumental in spreading the FURD ethos to the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. With the help of a grant from FIFA, from October to December 2007, he worked as part of a team to establish a programme of positive activities for young people in an area severely affected by civil war and conflict. There is much more work to be done and we are trying to raise funds to continue the work. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Desbon at FURD, or donations can be made to NatWest, Football Between Communities, Account 22280286. Here is Desbon's account of his trip to the DR Congo in late 2007:

Football Inter-Communautaire Project (FIC, or 'Football Between Communities' in English) uses the power of football to educate societies about the danger of racism as a source of conflict, particularly in relation to young people as the future generation.

The identification of areas which have been most affected by civil war was the key motivation for bringing unifying factors and collaboration performances in terms of gathering adolescents from all ethnic origins (both girls and boys) who share their opposition towards war and division, by helping them express aspiration for peace, tolerance and reconciliation, building solidarity, links and understanding amongst different communities – particularly adolescents – through sporting activities.

The project background
The FIC project is based in one of the worst war-conflict parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) Province called Sud Kivu, Territory of Barka-Fizi, situated in the Eastern of DR Congo.

Since 1996 to the current day, it has been reported by United Nations and Human Right agencies that hundreds of children and young people are forced to flee their communities, separated and abandoned by families and friends because of war-conflict in DR Congo. Hundreds are dying every day, whilst millions are in displaced areas without hope or access to education. Those who have lost their families and loved ones become innocent parties in the conflict engaged by different communities from different ethnic groups. Thousands of children are in the hands of armed conflict groups in the East region of DR Congo. This region has been affected with one of the worst conflict since World War Two. The humanitarian agencies have called it “A forgotten war.”

FIC is working ways to bring young people and communities together to reduce tension. The FIC project will break down barriers and make a real difference, through sporting activities.

According to our statistics gathered from the Ministry of Youth, Sport, Leisure, Culture and Arts:
• Sud Kivu is one of the largest provinces of DR Congo (It is bigger than the entire size of the Netherlands).
• 60% of its population still live in displaced areas both within and across the frontiers.
• More than 50% of young people between the ages of 6-20 years old are orphans from war conflict and disease such as HIV and Malaria.
• 70% of young people are without access to education.

Youth Centre
Katanga Youth Centre

Project specification

FIC’s aim is to gather adolescents from all ethnic origins who share their opposition towards racism, war and division, by helping them express aspiration for peace, tolerance and reconciliation, building solidarity, links and understanding amongst different communities through sporting activities.

In order to achieve this aim we believe that it is important to use sporting activities with schools, local football teams and across communities. We need to spread the message across the region by building a stronger mechanism of networking and partnership. This will benefit young people in school, out of school, on the street, and in displaced and refugee places.

The FIC team also believes that the media will play a vital role in spreading the FIC message.

Whilst doing this project we were able to build important networks and partnerships with the Provincial Ministry of Youth, Sports, Culture and Arts, the Umoja Community Radio Station at Baraka, Mitumba Radio Station at Uvira, SOS village d’enfants Uvira, Paroise Catholique Coeur Immacule de Marie Baraka, Katanga-Lubenga Primary School, Katanga Youth Centre, Akomba Primary School, Cooperative des Pecheurs et Planteurs de Fizi (COOPEPLAFI) asbl, Group d’ Intervention pour la Promotion Agricole et Rurale a Uvira (GIPAR) asbl, Baraka County Football Association, Uvira County Football Association and Bukavu Regional Football Association.

This building of relationships was instrumental in assisting us to achieve our aims as a project and as an organisation.
Listed below are some of the that took place:

Key events

1. Sud Kivu Provincial Government showed support to FIC through its Provincial Ministry of Youth, Sports, Leisure, Culture and Arts: The Provincial government, through S.E Minister of Youth, Sport, Leisure, Culture and Arts, issued with an official letter to support Football Inter-Communautaire Project work in the region. Here is an extract from the letter:

“En effet, tout en saluant cette initiative combien giniale d’appuyer notre gouvernement provincial dans sa lutte de pacifier l’ensemble de la province du Sud kivu a travers une reconcialation sincere entre les communautes, J’ai l’honneur de vous donner mon accord et demande a tout ceux qui me lisent en copie de bien vouloir vous faciliter cette tache combien utile pour une cohabitation harmonieuse de nos differentes communautes en province”.

2. Working with Schools and Youth Centres: A joint activity was organised on the 22 December 2007 with Lubenga and Akomba primary schools and Katanga Youth Centre in Baraka city. This was an extremely successful one-day event filled with activities that included football, dances, poetry, music and yoga. The young people were gathered from the villages of Katanga, Malinde, Mkangi, Akomba and Basinyange to share the joy of peace and what a sports project can achieve by changing the lives of individuals and the whole communities, especially those who live in the midst of poverty, disease and conflict. The collaboration and partnership with our two primary school partners mentioned above has helped, through a joint working group. The FIC team managed, together with both school headteachers, to identify 50 orphan pupils in each one of these two primary schools.

3. Working with local football teams, the local football association and the local Umoja community radio station: A football match was organised on the 23 December 2007. Two local big teams (Flambeau FC vs Masanze FC) were on the pitch of Stade Maendeleo, one of the best stadiums in the Sud Kivu province. A clear message of FARE, FIFA, FIC and One Game, One Community (Un Seul Jeux, Une Seule Communaute) was sent out through publicity, banners and via the radio station.

4. Youth Groups were identified across areas and communities to help identify places and locations where adolescents gather, with the result being the young people taking charge of sending out messages of peace, tolerance and reconciliation through cultural activities such as poems, drama and dance.

Flambeau FC
Flambeau FC

Problems and Limitations

The FIC project had some limitations. These included:
• Lack of funding to support diseased and war orphans to attend schools of their choice and near by (children have to travel about 3 miles by foot to attend school, because they do not have the means to pay the school fees charged by the schools near by).
• Limitations on infrastructures, equipment, materials, youth centres to deliver a greater range of sport and cultural activities to meet the FIC project’s aim.
• Limitations on funding and training for youth and sports workers (volunteer youth and sport workers will need basic training to handle activities implemented by the FIC project).
• Limitations on activity programmes for street and working children across all the region (as the region is large, and the transport is poor and expensive, it is really difficult to travel with all the team of workers including equipment). Different locations for storage of equipment in different areas was needed.
• Lack of funding to organise a major regional event (Unity Festival) combining sports and cultural activities.

Masanze FC
Masanze FC

FIC future plans
1. Partnership with the Provincial Ministry of Youth, Sports, Leisure, Culture and Arts: As part of its survey of youth in the Province of Sud Kivu, the local government, through the S.E. Minister of Youth, Sport, Leisure, Culture and Arts, has issued an official letter recommending the  FIC Coordinator for future partnership in terms of planning and delivering strategies for identification of youths in Sud Kivu.

Here is an excerpt from a letter from the S.E Minister to the FIC Coordinator at their second meeting, following the delivery of FIC activities:            
“Après analyse des vos objectifs vise par votre association, je salue l’initiative combien geniale, qui viserai a consolider la paix a travers le Football Inter-Commautaire (FIC)

En effet, considerant la problematique de l’ encadrement et la reinserction sociale de la jeunesse dans un Etat post-conflit comme le notre et plus particulierement dans notre Province de Sud Kivu qui restent la thematique centrale du Programme du Gouvernement Provincial, nous avons l’honneur de vous soumettre pour financement le Projet d’Identification des jeunes de la Province du Sud Kivu en Republique Democratique du Congo. En outre, tenant compte du Partenariat qui existe entre le Ministere Provincial de la Jeunesse, Sports, Loisirs, Culture et Arts et votre organisation, nous vous prions, Monsieur le Coordinateur, d’etre notre interprete aupres des vos partenaires nationaux qu’internationaux”. 

2. An inter-schools competition including sports and cultural activities will be organised with the rest of the other schools in the city. This will help schools in the city of Baraka to share their experiences and differences through sporting activities created by the FIC project.

3. Working with the Provincial Football Association: Ongoing discussion to decide the date and location of a Unity Festival which will include a six teams football tournament (Unity Cup) and intercultural competition from different youth groups across communities.

4. A two week football tournament involving the rest of the teams in the region (Province) will boost the youths and build a massive impact in terms of media and press. Funding will be needed for this important FIC project’s annual event, which will probably take place between September and October 2008 for a maximum of two weeks.

5. Working with SOS Village d’Enfants Uvira: FIC to coordinate and deliver sport activities to 150 orphans in SOS Village d’Enfants Uvira Territory, Oraza-Kanvivira. In order to complete this project, two football coaches will be needed to deliver FIC project coaching sessions 3 times a week for these young people who need its sporting activities the most.

6. FIC will look to develop partnerships with other key players in the region, including Right to Play, SOS Children’s Villages, and LISPED.

From nothing, the FIC project has achieved an important level of networking and partnership with local organisations, community leaders, faith organisations, local radio stations, schools, local football teams, local football associations and regional football association. The inaugural FIC project has achieved an excellent profile which will be of great benefit to future programmes.

All the team at FIC would like to thank FIFA and FARE for their support. This was truly a team effort and FIC will continue to deliver on its aims.

Desbon Bushiri
Coordinator, FIC asbl, Baraka, Sud Kivu, DR Congo
Football Unites, Racism Divides

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