Race for peace in North Kivu, DRC
by Jonathan Lorrillard and Alexandra de Bournonville
Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo: On Saturday, March 16, 2013, no less than one hundred and ten cyclists took part in a 6.25 kilometer long race through the main streets of the city. Riding not just any bicycles, across each set of handlebars sat a Tshukudu, the 40 kilogram wooden container which converts each bicycle into the region’s unique and perhaps most important heavy cargo-carrier. The riders or Tshukudists, both amateurs and professionals, had no fear of rising to the challenge and giving their time and energy. They were showing the world that Goma is a vibrant city where it is good to find oneself among friends in reappropriated public spaces.
The race was a way to pay tribute to the Tshukudists for their vital role in the socio-economic development of the city of Goma and the North Kivu region. This was also an opportunity to raise awareness about volunteering and solidarity, both deeply incorporated in Congolese society, no matter the social background or the economic condition. Indeed, this fundraising event was organized and held by the Tshukudists who are among the poorest. By doing so, they raised money for victims of Kitchanga, a town in North Kivu recently beset by fighting between the Congolese army (FARDC) and the APCLS militias.
"I am very proud to have participated in this race, not just because I won, but because by participating, I also helped those in greater need," said Emmanuel, a professional Tshukudist and winner of the race.
"It is heartwarming to see Goma in a festive light despite the surrounding conflicts. It is a memorable day today for all of us," said Guillaume, in charge of the Goma Youth House. "Positive volunteer-based initiatives of this kind are very important to draw youth out of idleness and encourage them to reject armed groups."
This point was echoed by the Head of MONUSCO in Goma when he addressed the public, "You have preferred to earn your living by the sweat of your brow rather than to engage in armed groups. You have chosen to invest in a legal and important activity for all ‘Gomatracians’. You made the right choice. The future lies in your hands.’’
Motivated by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the competition was organized in partnership with MONUSCO, the Association of Volunteers of Congo (ASVOCO) and the Association of Defense and Protection of Workers (ADPP). This event presented a unique opportunity to bring together the inhabitants of Goma and the staff from MONUSCO, UN agencies and NGOs in a collective and cheerful celebration.
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