Street artists in Goma in eastern DRC are using the walls of the city to appeal for peace in a region plagued by violence.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations in the US, there are more than one hundred armed groups operating in the eastern region of the country.
“We have a problem here. We have found that people discriminate and others are violent. That’s why we make these paintings, to call people to live together. Through these paintings, we also want to show people that violence and discrimination are not good. We want to show people the ideal and the importance of living together for the benefit of all”, said Didier Kawende, an artist campaigning against violence.
The artists are urging others to reject violence and unite.
But behind the upbeat attitude lies the disturbing reality of frequent violence led by armed groups, namely the M23.
“The armed group M23 has been at war with us in the Congo for over 10 years, so we, as artists, wanted to send a message that our country needs peace. We don’t want war every day. War is holding back development. Several young people have been victims of discrimination, accused of supporting armed groups like the M23. Others are called Rwandans, Congolese, Tutsi and we have found that this situation can lead us into civil war and serious violence.
That’s why we’re trying to fight this, through art. We do this on the walls of busy places, in order to show the world what is happening", said Thierry Croco, a Goma street artist and victim of violence.
This month, the UN’s High Commission for Refugees reported the ongoing violence has affected the education of more than 600,000 children in the North Kivu region alone.