Kamenge, in Burundi, is the symbol of one of the most cruel civil wars. The country remains stuck in a cycle of bloodshed. Alexis Sindhuje is determined to change the cycle. He's a pacifist who has started a multi ethnic party and he breaks the region's Big Man of Africa mould. He's spent years in prison, he's campaigned for the presidency. His powerful story is rare in Africa and is beautifully told in this surprisingly heart warming film from a war zone.
The crowds cram together, people climbing all over the car that is carrying Alexis Sinduhije from prison. As he steps from the car he can barely move but he still carries an irrepressible smile, "We want to build a state free from fear"
, he says to his adoring audience. But Alexis is not the traditional big man of Africa, he is a former journalist who firmly believes he can break the cycle of genocide and repression.
However, his movement is still in its infancy. In Alexis' lifetime democracy has not been a feature of Burundi. In 1993, when a Tutsi Prime Minister was elected, the army massacred his party. Since then Burundi has been a dictatorship in all but name and had a painful civil war. The problem according to Alexis is leadership, "it is military men that contest the election, and they think like soldiers"
. He wants to change all this but political opposition is a dangerous game in Burundi.
Under political repression violence has prospered. "Every day we hear about killings"
, one Kamenge resident says. A state of war still seems to be in effect. In Alexis' home district the Kamenge Youth Centre is trying to change all this. It has become the nerve centre of the reconstruction, the symbol of coexistence after civil war. It lies in the centre of Kamenge, between Hutu and Tutsi districts, where the majority of fighting during the civil war took place. Here Claudio Marano, who runs the centre, is not fighting for political freedoms, but just wants to mend bridges. "The centre is a laboratory for peace"
he says, "If we can work together we can achieve great things"
While the political establishment, led by prime minister Pierre Nkurunziza, and the international community claim rebuilding is underway, that Burundi is stable, those on the ground tell a different story. "The present situation is even worse than the war"
, says Jeff Riragonya who lives in Kamenge. While Sinduhije and the Kamenge Youth Centre offer hope for a better future, political corruption and killings continue. Alexis Sinduhije still has much to do before his mission can be described a success.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Silver Audience Award, Amnesty International Film Festival, 2010
Selected, International Human Rights Festival, 2011
Selected, African World Documentary Festival, 2011