Photo: performance for the International Dance Day (by Moses Sawasawa from the Kokoriko Foundation Facebook page)
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a huge country in the middle of the African continent. The region presents a great abundance of natural resources, especially minerals, diamonds, and wood. Over the last three decades, conflicts involving armed groups and foreign actors have been mutilating the country, in particular the Eastern side.
Francis Mulindwa Zihindula is a 27-year-old activist who lives in Goma, in the eye of the hurricane. He is a fair example of how people’s movements for peace and justice can rise from the ashes.
I’m an artist, a dancer, and a performer. I started by imitating Michael Jackson when I was a child. Then, taught myself how to dance hip-hop and created my dance team to learn together. As a teenager I moved to Uganda, our neighbour country, and lived there for three years. There I started to speak the English. While I’m currently dedicating to contemporary dance, I’m also the founder of the Kokoriko foundation.
Kokoriko was born in 2019, with the idea bubbling up in Francis’s mind for many years before, because he felt miserable for the suffering he experienced every single day.
I was looking for a way to support my people. Now we try to help children and people who lost their loved ones because of the war forget about their traumas and live more serene. These children don’t have a mother, don’t have a father, they’re abandoned. We’re the only ones who can help them grow happily.
At present the foundation has gathered about fifty children and teenagers. They live together and spend their days learning new skills, with a special focus on the performative arts. The management and organization are run by nine volunteers – the eldest is more than 80 years old.
We all do what we can…” says Francis with a crack in his voice. “Our country is big, blessed with mineral resources, but its people cannot benefit from them. There are many groups, foreigner and internal; armed groups, which take advantage of all this richness. Our cities, our villages, are in the middle of the conflicts. We don’t have anything, no possessions at all. We’d need mattresses, shoes, clothes. Thanks to some fund raising we can afford food and water. But we never have enough.
Francis laments the lack of help from the government and the numerous non-profit organizations which land there to support the citizens.
Politicians speak, but don’t do. Also, there are a lot of non-profit organizations, big ones too, but it seems like they don’t really do what they can and maybe just think about their propagandas and how foreign people see them.
The cities in Eastern Congo Democratic Republic are collapsing, the people are worn out. Nevertheless, there is always a spark that, when ignited, can bring a bright, relieving light.
As to the monetary support or provision of supplies, unfortunately the situation is complex. No matter what, we will continue to dedicate our lives to these people who have lost everyone and everything. We don’t have material possessions, but we have each other. And thanks to art, music, dance, we can forget for some time all the death and sufferance we see every day. I’d like to say a heartfelt “thank you” to all the people who decide to help us. Our country is a beautiful country, but there is no justice or peace. We’re one world – my problems are also yours and viceversa. I’d do my utmost to help you. What about you?
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Kokoriko Foundation Facebook page