The Peace Cup tournament was organized by the World Bank's Transitional Demobilization and Reintegration Program (TDRP) of the Africa Conflict and Social Development Unit (AFTCS) to promote reconciliation in communities that had suffered greatly from violence and to give a sense of pride and belonging to participants through the unifying power of sport. Divided by years of war and conflict, young men across four African countries were brought together by their common passion for football.
Throughout the spring and summer 2012, 41 football teams across Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Uganda competed in national championships. (Due to ongoing conflict in the country, players form the DRC team could not be featured in this film.) On each team, about half of the players were former soldiers and the rest community members. The ex-combatants were either former military personnel or former rebels from various armed groups. Some had joined the ranks voluntarily, others were abducted and forced to join. Demobilization and reintegration commissions in Burundi and Rwanda organized the tournaments, while NGOs handled the organization in DRC and Uganda.
The champion of each of the four countries gathered on September 21 and 22 at the sports ground of Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda to play for the Peace Cup title. The teams came respectively from Uvira, Democratic Republic of Congo; Bubanza, Burundi; Kigali, Rwanda; and Gulu, Uganda.
The tournament was not just about the right to be crowned as victors in a football game. The Peace Cup demonstrated that the stigma of having taken part in combat could be worn away by humanizing ex-combatants and their host communities through collective social action. This in turn could begin to repair the social fabric torn apart by years of violent conflict.
The Peace Cup also proved that football is not just a game, but also a readily available tool to combat discrimination and create an environment where everyone feels equal. Louis Emmanuel Oloyotoo Okello of Winterbury FC, Gulu, simply expressed his joy: "I feel very happy to participate in the Peace Cup. My teammate Tzar, I pass the ball to him, he passes it to me. I don't see him as an ex-soldier".
When the Burundi and Uganda players greeted each other before the final game, it was no longer about their past. It was about the Peace Cup motto: "Youth, Peace, Development".