Tanzania: Award winning refugee child anxious to see his community helped
05 February 2010

Congolese refugees in Nyagura camp, western Tanzania. (Peter Balleis SJ/JRS)
"As adults, we should learn from their example and put our own ideals into practice, without endless talk and fear of failure."

Mwanza, 5 February 2010 — On December 3, 2009, a 16-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was awarded an International Children’s Peace Prize for his efforts on behalf of refugee children in Tanzania.

Baruani Ndume, who fled from the DRC at the age of seven, is a co-producer and announcer of the children’s radio programme “Sisi Kwa Sisi” – Child for Child, which is funded by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and aired weekly by the formerly JRS run Radio Kwizera. He has been one of the forces behind the programme that provides a platform for children to speak out about the challenges and problems they encounter as refugees and promotes child rights such as the right to education. By means of appeals on the show, Ndume also helped to reunite many children with their parents and families after they were separated by war. Under the training and supervision of Radio Kwizera journalist Mazibo Kangetha Wilson, 30 refugee children contribute to the programme which has been highly successful and is now broadcast in DRC, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda.

“I feel that we have fulfilled our mandate of advocating for the rights of the children,” Fr. Damas Missanga, JRS Country Representative for Tanzania, told Headlines. “Now that Baruani has won this award, I hope that more attention will be paid to the rights of children,” he added. 

Ndume was born in the DRC's South Kivu province. His father died when he was four, while his mother and younger brother were murdered when conflict erupted once more in the region in 1998. Soldiers herded the family and other villagers into a house before torching it. "As I was small, I managed to escape through a little hole in the wall," he recalled. A villager took him to Tanzania where he was assisted at one of the camps.

Ndume received the prestigious award from Kenyan Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai during a ceremony, officially opened by Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. “All the prize winners and nominees are heroes who make a difference,” said the Prime Minister. “As adults, we should learn from their example and put our own ideals into practice, without endless talk and fear of failure,” he added.

The International Children’s Peace Prize is awarded annually to a child “whose courageous or otherwise remarkable acts have made a difference in countering problems which affect children around the world." It comes with a cash purse of 100,000 euros to be spent on projects related to the winner's work. Ndume is the fifth recipient of the award as well as the first refugee child. The award was initiated by the KidsRights Foundation based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Radio Kwizera has been set up by JRS in 1995 following an influx of refugees from Rwanda. Over the last 14 years it has provided hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Great Lakes region, returnees and members of the host communities with relevant, practical and balanced information as well as educational and entertainment programmes in Kiswahili, Kirundi, English and French, thus promoting peace, reconciliation, integration and security in the region. Due to the repatriation of large numbers of refugees, the radio station was handed over to the Jesuit Province in early 2009. 

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