Interview with Sylvestre Bwira - MUNA 2016
January 24th 2016
You have shown some enormous strength and courage. Where does it come from?
I think it is normal in my situation. I have seen so much suffering around me. Sometimes there is no option of doing nothing. If you see people dying every day you cannot remain passive. You have to act. There is always something you can do, even if it is something very small.
You have been to MUNA and Alfrink College before. How did you experience this?
I really like your school and your teacher Mr. de Haas. I have heard about the projects you do about history and about the current situation in the world. This MUNA project is also a very good way to get more insight in how the world works. It is good that your school brings the students in touch with the bigger world.
What is the most remarkable question you have been asked?
Last time when I was at your school, a 12 year old girl asked me the following question: "What if you would have three minutes in which the entire world population could hear to you: what would you say?" This was a very surprising and excellent question. I had to think about it long afterwards because then you really have to sum up what is most important to you. At that moment I said: "If I would have one thing to say it would be: disarm yourselves! Throw away your weapons, your pride, you honor and everything that stands in the way of accepting the other". I still think that was a good answer.
What is your opinion on the collaboration of MUNA and The Hague Peace projects in the film project about the conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DCR)?
I like the project. You know, Goma, the city where they are going to film, is really sort of my hometown. I was not born there but I lived and studied there for a long time. This city has suffered immensely the past twenty years. It has been captured several times by different armies and rebel groups. There even was a heavy volcano eruption about ten years ago. You can imagine what it is like to be a child there. Never really being safe. But still, for many people it is normal life. I think it is interesting to show that in a film. What effect do you wish the film will have on people? I would like in the first place if people get to know my country a bit more. Sometimes it seems that Congo has been forgotten, even though terrible wars took place there. Also I hope that people see how strong (young) people can be, even under difficult circumstances. But the most important thing is, I think, that people realize how terrible war is. And what it does to young people. I think people in general and especially people in Europe and in the Netherlands could really be important in helping to stop wars. Sometimes it seems as if people think that war is normal and that you cannot do anything about it. But war is not normal at all, and we all should do everything we can in order to stop this madness. This film could help people realize that war is not normal and that we, the 'general public' should get active in stopping wars.
I have read somewhere that you said that the DCR needs a leader, because there wasn’t one already at the time. What kind of leader does the DCR need according to you?
It has to be a very strong leader. Not a dictator however. We have had enough of dictators already. No this person should be strong and courageous because he will have to change so many things. He or she should first make sure that the State is going to serve the population, and not the other way round. He will have to work on the economy, on corruption, on civil education and first and foremost: to create a culture of peace and democracy. So he or she needs to be very strong and intelligent, to have unbreakable values, and with a great heart for the needs of ordinary people.
Can you see yourself as that leader?
Haha! Who knows? I will try my best to do what I can, even without ever being that leader, or even being able to return to my country.
How can the problems in the DCR be solved according to you?
First of all we need to have a truly democratic system. As I said above: we need people who care about the country and about the people. We have had enough of elites that only care about their own power and their own money. And we need the strong countries in Europe to help the ordinary people to change the system. This can be done for instance by organizing local elections so that you get people elected who have support from the people. They can then fight for the rights of these people on a higher level.
Do you think that the situation in the DCR will improve a lot in the coming years?
Not a lot, I am afraid. As long as we have a dictatorship of people who only serve their own interests it is hard to change things. Nobody at the top cares for the population. What kind of things are you doing in Holland now? I am working for The Hague Peace Projects now. There I am helping to set up projects for peace in the Great Lake region: Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Congo. This means organizing a lot of dialogue between people from these countries who find it difficult to talk to each other. A lot of trust-building is necessary. Also I am doing research and advocating for change in my country.
Do you have any advice or anything to say to the young people who will be participating in MUNA?
Work hard! You maybe do not realize always how far you can come with all of the opportunities that you are given here in Europe. You are the people that can change the world