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Raising awareness

Joy of life – and refugees

by Mareike Forchheim

In brief

Lassana Justin Yao (with cap) from Burkina Faso said in Marburg that his country needs strategies to share natural wealth fairly.

Lassana Justin Yao (with cap) from Burkina Faso said in Marburg that his country needs strategies to share natural wealth fairly.

Intercultural exchange serves to boost the mutual understanding of Africans and European – and can motivate people to become involved in development matters.

“To us, our music is a bit like home,” says Narcisse Ngale, who founded the Giessen-based choir Die Stimme Africas (The Voice of Africa). All members are from Cameroon. They sing songs in German and English, as well as in the languages Beti, Bamileke und Bassa. One motivation, according to Ngale, is to show German audiences the sense of hope that is typical of Cameroon and Africa in general. Ngale reports that the initial idea was to bring lively African traditions to Christian masses in Germany.

On 25 May, the choir performed in Marburg in the context of the Erster Deutscher Entwicklungstag (First German Development Day), a national awareness-raising event. It was the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Organisation for African Unity, the predecessor of the African Union. The motto of the Entwicklungstag was “Your engagement, our future”.

In Ngale`s view, Cameroon differs from Germany in the sense of people not showing much interest in political and public involvements. His explanation is that the people don’t feel that protests against the one-party regime in the early 1990s made much difference. Cameroon has opposition parties today, but Ngale says that wealthy elites are still running the country without much regard for the worries of the vast majority.

The hosts of the Entwicklungstag were 16 cities, one in every German Land. In Marburg, some 40 organisations from Hesse informed the public about their work, which ranges from support for projects in developing countries (the construction of hospitals and schools, for instance) to awareness raising in Germany (such as campaigning for sustainable consumption patterns or promoting intercultural dialogue).

Abbas Anoor, a poet and rapper from Sudan, performed on stage in Marburg too. He is from the conflict region of Darfur and lives in Frankfurt today. He had to flee his country because of his lyrics. They deal with the troubles he experienced as a young man, including violence, ethnic strife and oppression. The desire for peace is another recurring theme. 

Anoor reports that Darfur is completely cut off from the rest of the country. It takes several days to reach the region from Khartoum, the capital city. Most journalists who want to report normally do not get there. With Peter Reimer, a German friend, Anoor makes music for his country as well as for Germany. Global Link, a Frankfurt-based non-governmental organisation invited them to perform in Marburg.

Lassana Justin Yao, an artist from Burkina Faso, grasped the opportunity of the Entwicklungstag to give the audience in Marburg an idea of the joy of life that is common in Africa, where people are grateful for every day they wake up in good health. He says that Germans tend to lack that sense of happiness. Burkina is beautiful, according to Yao, but its people should “finally stop considering it poor”. In truth, Burkina is rich in resources, he argues, and all it needs is policies to make use of that wealth in a socially equitable manner. To draft and implement such policies, however, Burkinabés have to drop the colonial-era attitude of feeling stuck in poverty and underdevelopment.

The Entwicklungstag programme in the 16 cities was coordinated by ENGAGEMENT GLOBAL on behalf of Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Develoment. The goal was to motivate citizens to become involved in development matters. ENGAGEMENT counted some 180 000 participants. About 500 NGOs, initiatives and private-sector companies took advantage of the opportunity to reach out to the public. The event obviously resonated with the public, so Gabriela Büssemaker, the chief executive of ENGAGEMENT GLOBAL, expects a follow-up to be held next year, when other cities would get the opportunity to host the events.

Mareike Forchheim