Former Burundi street child helps heal civil war divisions

Mon Mar 20, 2017 6:00am GMT

By Emma Batha

LONDON, March 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In northern Burundi a group of 90 young people are harvesting their first crops - beans, maize and potatoes - but this is no ordinary smallholding.

The farmers come from both sides of the country's ethnically charged civil war; some were orphaned by the conflict, while others are the children of those who were the killers.

"They share what is grown as an example of reconciliation. We call it redeeming the land because there was so much bloodshed," said Dieudonne Nahimana, founder of the charity New Generation which runs the project.

"The young people come together to talk about what happened, why it happened and how we can stop it happening in the future."

Forty percent of the farmers at the project in Gasorwe in Muyinga province are Hutu, 40 percent Tutsi and 20 percent Batwa pygmies, Burundi's most marginalised people.

At least 300,000 people died in the 1993-2005 conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in the central African nation, now gripped by fresh turmoil.

Nahimana, who grew up in Muyinga, lost his father and 18 other relatives in the war. For several years he felt angry and then he sat down with his father's killers and publicly forgave them.

His charity now encourages others to do likewise through its reconciliation work.   Continued...

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