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Carter Center Slideshow: Channeling Youthful Energy in DRC

  • Building the Congo: Civic engagement for the construction and protection of the DRC. By Katsivake Tsongo, Goma Youth House. FIRST PRIZE, GOMA.

  • Rejecting Bad Values: No to bad values. Yes to values. By Rodrigue Muladika, Victoire Youth House in Kinshasa. FIRST PRIZE, KINSHASA.

  • Freedom of Expression: Against repression of the freedom of expression. Let’s protect it all the way! By Gibson Kitoko, Kintambo Youth House in Kinshasa. SECOND PRIZE, KINSHASA.

  • For Female Leadership: Together, let’s value the young girl. Educating a girl is educating a nation. By David Muyisa, Goma Youth House. SECOND PRIZE, GOMA.

  • Rise Congolese: Together for a new Congo. Prosper for love of the nation and hard work. By Félicien Kakule Kasungu, Goma Youth House. THIRD PRIZE, GOMA.

  • Protecting It: Protecting our constitution from bad weather! By Ngemba Lapojo, Victoire Youth House in Kinshasa. FOURTH PRIZE, KINSHASA.

  • Collective Action: Together for concrete citizenship geared toward active and positive participation in public affairs. By Bufflon, Goma Youth House.

  • Right to Vote: My voice counts towards the transformation of my country. Hence, I vote purposely. By Obam Mupepe Mukatshung, Kintambo Youth House in Kinshasa.

  • Rejecting Bad Values: In our school, we are the craftsman of peace; we advocate against war. By Rodrigue Muladika, Victoire Youth House in Kinshasa.

  • Young Democrat, I Participate: Space for civic values, work, conscience, integrity, self-consciousness, patriotism, and democracy for the good of my country, the DRC. By Christian Baruti Monga, Kintambo Youth House in Kinshasa. THIRD PRIZE, KINSHASA.

  • Build Progress: For positive and constructive civic participation by the young for the enduring development of the DRC. By Papy Aganze Tchigoha, Goma Youth House.

  • Youth, the Future of our Country: The future begins today. By Mawete Bona, Victoire Youth House in Kinshasa.

As the Democratic Republic of Congo edges toward its next national election — slated for November, though the timing is in question — one thing is clear: The nation’s young people will play an important role.

The Carter Center wants to make sure it’s a positive one.

“Traditionally, young people have been associated with violent protests,” said Elysée Sindayigaya, director of the Center’s Human Rights House in DRC. “Youth unemployment is high, as is their skepticism of government. Politicians often take advantage of that, sometimes even paying them to demonstrate in the streets.

“We wanted to find ways to empower young people as nonviolent agents for democratic change.”

And so in March of this year, with the aid of a grant from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Human Rights House launched a three-month pilot in the cities of Goma and Kinshasa to educate young people about electoral processes and encourage constructive democratic participation.

The team created Citizen Cafés, bringing governmental officials and politicians together with young people for a series of discussions. It organized “democracy bees” in local high schools. And it arranged site visits to some key political institutions — a town hall, a provincial assembly, regional election commissions, and police headquarters (where the national chief of police engaged in an incredible eight-hour Q&A session with the youth).

“The democracy bees were great,” said Sindayigaya, “because the winners in each classroom then competed in schoolwide elections to be chosen as their school’s representative in an area-wide contest. The elections were organized just like DRC’s national election. The goal was to show that an election can be held peacefully and that winners must be held accountable for their promises.”

The pilot also included artistic workshops and contests, which allowed youth ages 15-30 to use drawing, singing, writing, and theater as tools to advocate for nonviolent democratic participation. The winning entries in the drawing competition are featured in a slideshow on this page. Some of the best submissions in other artistic categories can be found at http://www.jeunesenparlent.org. These include a “letter” written by democracy to the government.

“Dear Beautiful Government,” it begins. “It’s me, your wife, Democracy. I don’t recognize you anymore…”

In all, nearly 3,000 young people took part in some aspect of the Center’s youth programming. It’s a promising start.

As Congolese Senator Moise Nyarugabo told young participants in a Carter Center-organized Democracy Day conference: “The shift to good, democratic governance in the DRC requires the involvement of all citizens; but one person, a special youth with strong political will and an understanding of human rights, can change the whole situation.”

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