15 January 2018 • Gideon Wille
Student wins UNESCO Peace Building Award
Ewing Amadi Salumu first arrived in the Netherlands in 2008 as a Congolese journalist reporting on the trials held in the International Criminal Court against Jean Pierre Bemba and Thomas Lubanga. At that time, Salumu never thought he would make his home in the Netherlands, let alone win a UNESCO peace building award here.
‘I was originally educated as a legal professional,’ said Salumu. ‘I became involved in the fight against HIV and started distributing information about this in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. But I found that I was too involved with the results and not enough in the causes. I became more interested in journalism because it was a way of influencing people. With his legal background, he was the perfect choice to report on the trials against Bemba and Lubanga.
Salumu worked for websites and radio stations, but not everyone agreed with what he had to say. He heard that his name was on a death list, two of his friends were murdered, and his family had to go into hiding. Salumu requested asylum in the Netherlands and finally wound up in Leidschendam in 2011. He learned Dutch and enrolled in Communications at THUAS in 2015. The Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO Peace Building Award
He noticed tensions resulting from the civil war in the DR Congo among Africans living in the Netherlands who had come from the African Great Lakes Region. Salumu: ‘Six million people were murdered in eastern Congo in the last twenty years. Hate and anger developed. The neighbouring countries of Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi became directly involved in the war in Congo. The Congolese don’t trust people from these countries.’
To reduce tensions between Africans from the Great Lakes Region, Salumu started peace building projects in the Netherlands. ‘I wanted to work on developing a dialogue – getting people together and talking about things to reduce the tensions. My goal is to keep the behaviour they acquired during the war from repeating itself in the Netherlands. We have to facilitate a process that allows people to process their traumas and develop new behaviours. I hope that these new behaviours can also be exported to the countries where they originated.
The projects have led to three major annual events for people from the African diaspora at which they can interact, listen to lectures and enjoy food and music together. But the peace building group also organises a football competition that attracts people to Assen from far and wide.
Salumu’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. On 29 September, he received the Netherlands National Commission for UNESCO Peace Building Award. The jury report mentions: ‘The jury was very much impressed by the work Ewing is conducting to bring together people from various African tribes who now live in the Netherlands and getting them to start talking about what connects them with each other.’ Salumu had not expected to win an award for this work. He says he’s not the only one who deserves to win: for The Hague Peace Project, for example, he works closely with colleagues from four other African countries. He’s pleased with the award, of course; he’ll now be able to enrol in a fully paid summer course at UCLA in the summer of 2018.
You can read more about Ewing Salumu’s peace building project here.