Message by Nelson Mandela for the Peace Festival of Centre Jeunes Kamenge, Burundi

December 2000

It was with a deep sense of pride and of renewed hope that I learnt of the Peace Festival being planned by the Kamenge Youth Centre in Burundi.

Just a few days ago I had occasion in front of an international audience in Paris to tell of the pride I felt in the leaders and people of Burundi for having negotiated the first stage of a political settlement. At the peace negotiations in Arusha, where I was privileged to act as facilitator, the leaders of the nineteen political parties represented chose peace above conflict, unity above division, and committed themselves to an agreed process for bringing peace and normality to the long suffering people of Burundi.

At that international donors conference in Paris we attempted to draw pledges of support for the reconstruction and development of the Burundi economy and society. We asked of the Burundi representatives present to show a united face to the international world and to demonstrate that peace stands a chance in that country where the ordinary people have suffered too much under conflict and strife. We drew great hope from the way the Barundi conducted themselves; our faith in peace and co-operation was vindicated.

The hard task is still ahead of us. It is the people of Burundi themselves who must lay the basis for a lasting peace. What you at the Youth Centre in Kamenge are doing inspires us to believe that that task can and will be accomplished.

There is more that unites than there is that divides the people of Burundi. For centuries you have been living together in what is sometimes referred to as the oldest country in Africa. With the will of the people, and particularly the youth who represent the future of the country, you can rediscover that unity and together proceed to build your society.

I know that it is possible. I have seen in my own country how the divisions of the past can be overcome. There are good men and women in any community and in all political parties or persuasions. It is when those men and women get together that the builders rather than the destroyers triumph. It is then that our common humanity is reaffirmed.

Your country has a unique opportunity to become an inspiring model to the entire world by overcoming divisions and building a common future. You the youth have a particular role to play in this regard.

We wish you well with your Peace Festival and we look forward to meeting with you during one of our upcoming meetings to Burundi.

May it go well with the youth of Burundi and may peace prosper in your midst.


Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation