By John Oryang
At the height of the First Congo War in 1996 Floribert Kazingufu, a teacher in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), fled to South Africa as a refugee.
His journey inspired him to become a leading peace-builder for his people, co-founding the Chirezi Foundation, which provides education and 'peace courts', and the Pan African Peace University in Uriva, DRC.
But it was his first experience on the run from war that prompted him to become a peace activist.
"On my way to South Africa in a certain place called Makobola, we were running, we were really under bombs from the two groups, the rebels and the government,” Mr Kazingufu told Peace News Network.
“But, when we arrived at a church yard, we saw hundreds of children that were gathered in the church yard and they were really crying because they were, like, lost, abandoned,” he said.
“They didn’t know where their parents were but the priest, I think, gathered them together so that they can be kept there. At that time we couldn’t even stop, because... I think the priest even ran away because the bombs were really so intensive - everyone was looking to save his [own] life. That’s why we left the church yard.”
“Now, through my whole way to South Africa, I could hear - clearly - the sounds of these kids, some crying for their mother, others crying for help. Those cries were still in my mind in South Africa and when I finished [school] I said, ‘No! I have to look at something' because I was accountable for what I did not do in Makobola in DRC that time."
When Flory returned to his country, the Second Congo War was already underway. So, he established a make-shift school, and the Chirezi Foundation was born.
"While we were doing the education, problems were arising,” he said.
“The first problem was between the children we were looking after; we had children from different tribes. They were fighting over their origin or something like that. We had now to start a peace-building strategy, how can we reconcile these kids? We were going back to their places and started holding public conference, public workshops with the community, that is where the peace building came in."
What's driving war in the DRC?
"The natural resources of Congo are a major challenge to peace, why?, because when people come [to the DRC] they all focus on the resources,” Mr Kazingufu said.
“We have realized that every armed group fighting in Congo has got the hand of someone who has the remote, and those people having the remote might be Congolese or from outside. I am talking of certain nations, and those are the multinationals. The hand, the wars and conflicts in Congo have those people, because they are fighting for the natural resources of Congo. That is why I say natural resources are also part of the challenges for peace in Congo."
What needs to happen for the DRC to achieve peace?
"We want to change the system, it’s resisting,” Mr Kazingufuf said.
“So now the people have to realize what is missing and fight for what they think is write in a peaceful manner without harming, because they need to aspire for what they want and what they want is a system that will be coming from the community, from the people - not from USA, not from England, not from Burundi. The DRC has to take into account what they think is better for them."
What's the key to peace in the DRC's future?
"These kids are our focus,” Mr Kazingufu said.
“We want them to start a new language and to start absorbing new things. And we want peace to be at the center of what they will be learning, at the center of what they will be saying, at the center of what they will be acting. If it is football they have to act football with peace, if it is the kitchen, kitchen with peace. We want peace to be in every activity they are doing that’s why now we are teaching peace into the primary school, the secondary school, and at the university. So that they can start now an alternative language to violence and to conflict - and that is called peace."