The Kamenge Youth Centre (KYC) was initiated by the Catholic diocese of Bujumbura in 1991. It works between six highly ethnicised communes in northern Bujumbura, an area which saw more than 20,000 people killed in the 1993-2000 conflict. KYC provides a wide range of activities including training, sports, and other recreational activities. Since 1994, the centre has welcomed around 30,000 young people from different ethnic, social, and religious backgrounds, offering activities such as training, sports, and the arts, enabling them to live, work and hope together.
Peace and Reconciliation Project
This Project began in 1998 when violence between Hutu and Tutsi communities in northern Bujumbura was commonplace, and there was almost no interaction between the two groups. KYC decided to address this by organising activities to bridge the divide. They wanted to get people used to talking and working together towards common goals, and to provide a neutral environment for people from all ethnic groups to interact peacefully. Activities were tailored to each commune, and included peace and reconciliation debates, conflict resolution training and sports events.
The initiative also helps demobilised young people deal with reintegration into war-affected communities by offering education, professional training and psychosocial support.
‘Truth’ Work Camp 2008
Truth was a 2008 ‘work camp’ organised in the northern communes of Bujumbura. Camps have met every summer since 1998, involving around 2,000 young people from different ethnic, religious, and social backgrounds who work and live together for 15 days. Participants build homes for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the mornings, and take part in workshops in the afternoons.
The camps help reduce suspicion among local communities which have been highly ethnicised and deeply affected by the war. They give participants the opportunity to get to know each other, debating and interacting in various ways. The workshops help participants identify the real challenges they face. They discover that someone from a different ethnic group, religion or region is not the enemy, but that all Burundians face shared adversaries.
Since 1998, the ‘work camps’ have helped build almost 1,000 houses across the five communes. This has strengthened relationships both between different groups of young people, and between local residents and former IDPs. The camps have also provided participants with textbooks, stationery, and other classroom materials as a reward for their involvement. Overall, the camps have proved themselves a powerful force for reconstruction, stimulating peaceful dialogue and helping develop young people’s skills and confidence.