Rwamwanja refugees learn coexistence through taekwondo

Monday October 21 2019

Training. Some of the youngsters demonstrating

Training. Some of the youngsters demonstrating their skills at Rwamwanja Refugee Camp. PHOTOBY ABDUL-NASSER SSEMUGABI  

By ABDUL-NASSER SSEMUGABI

Rwamwanja Refugees Settlement in Kamwenge District in southwestern Uganda is home to over 70,000 refugees, mostly Congolese who fled the M23 rebellion and the Kivu conflict in 2012 and Seleka Muslims, who fled violence in the Central African Republic. But through taekwondo these homeless souls could learn the beauty of forgiveness and harmonious coexistence.
This is the main goal of the Uganda Taekwondo Federation which launched the Refugee Inclusion Taekwondo Club in the camp to enable refugees a chance to play a combat sport renowned for its psychological rehabilitation. Badru Ntulage, one of the three players who represented Uganda at the 2011 All-Africa Games in Maputo, now the federation general secretary, said he developed the idea from his interactions with refugee students in Kampala:
“Some were South Sudanese, Rwandese, Somalis. They became close to us because we taught them taekwondo for free, and some had their lives changed. I started believing that ‘those in settlements need these services even more’, hence this project,” Ntulage told us.
“The essence is inner healing. These people fled very hostiles environments and our programmes currently emphasise meditating, stretching and storytelling.”
As the refugees share their horrible life stories, the taekwondo therapists help them embrace forgiveness and peaceful coexistence.
“One could have killed the other’s family, but here at the camp we want to live as one family and taekwondo is the best sport to teach that,” Ntulage added, dreaming that the programme extends to Adjumani, Moyo and Kyangwali refugee camps.
Started only last year with about 70 members, the club is now overwhelmed by over 300 students. These include refugees and locals, which UTF president Hakim Kato said is a huge step towards spreading the sport to different parts of the country. Who knows Uganda’s next big taekwondo star could come from such arrangements?

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