Young people played tug of war and others shook their bodies to crowd-pleasing music as a scorching African sun set near the Ugandan capital of Kampala. A tipsy poet drew loud cheers by repeatedly reciting: "One day. Someday. Could be this day." The good-natured weekend gathering attracted scores of people in support of the time when all of Africa would be free of armed violence, the AP reports. The Mara Mara peace festival drew inspiration from the African Union's declaration of 2020 as the year for "silencing the guns" on a continent that has long faced civil war, ethnic rivalries and rebel insurgencies. In an effort to reduce the number of illegal weapons in circulation across the continent, the AU has said there will be an amnesty during September when illegally owned guns can be turned over to local authorities.
The AU, often accused of not doing enough to end armed violence, has said it will reach out to youths to discourage them from taking up arms. Africa has multiple conflict zones, including Islamic extremist violence in West Africa's Sahel region and in parts of Nigeria, as well as armed rebellion by militias in eastern Congo. In South Sudan, hundreds of thousands were killed in a civil war that officially ended in 2018 but still simmers. Africa Peace Zones, a network of volunteers who organized the peace gathering, cited challenges such as gender-based violence, unemployment and climate change but said young people are the key. "Some of Africa's strongest attributes—tolerance, kindness, generosity, resilience, problem solving and a team spirit—are the very foundation of negotiation, mediation and reconciliation as alternatives to violence," the group said. "We don't have to fight,” a dance instructor and mental health advocate at the fair said. "We can talk to each other."
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