Miki Sikabwe is a fashion designer from Congo.She has trained in Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya. She has never had the chance to show her work in Congo because of security issues.
But that changed over the weekend.A handful of designers presented the first fashion show in the eastern Congo city of Beni in years. It was a welcome distraction for residents who have faced attacks by Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebels and other armed groups.They have killed thousands of people over the past three years.
Sikabwe said, “I am happy to be exhibiting my necklaces and clothes made with local products here in Beni and I believe this will give hope to the people here.”
She and thousands of others in eastern Congo wonder when the violence will end.Earlier this month, the ADF attacked a local United Nations peacekeeping group.The attack killed 15 Tanzanian peacekeepers and five Congolese soldiers.It was the deadliest attack on a U.N. peacekeeping mission in nearly 25 years.Uganda and Congo have launched a joint military offensive against the rebels.
Nyonyi Bwanakawa is the mayor of Beni.He said he believes the city is becoming safer.
“We would like to show the world that in Beni, and in northeast Congo, there is life and tourists can come here,” he said.
Over the weekend, nearly 600 people attended the Beni fashion show. Some of the items on display were colored loincloths, masks and traditional materials designed into modern styles.
Roselyne Mbiya was the lead designer.She used Congolese fabrics mixed with flower designs and lace.
Mbiya said some of the show’s proceeds will go to women who have been raped by the ADF.She said the women need to feel they are still loved by society.
I’m Jonathan Evans.