Goma is the capital and largest city of the North Kivu Province in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, next to the Rwandan city of Gisenyi. It shares its borders with Bukumu Chiefdom to the north, the Republic of Rwanda to the east, Masisi Territory to the west, and is flanked by Lake Kivu to the south. The city lies in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift System, and lies only 13–18 km (8.1–11.2 mi) south of the active Nyiragongo Volcano. With an approximate area of approximately 75.72 square kilometers, the city has an estimated population of nearly 2 million people according to the 2022 census, while the 1984 estimate placed the number at 80,000.

Goma is administratively divided into two urban municipalities: Goma and Karisimbi, which are further subdivided into 18 quarters, colloquially recognized as "neighborhoods" in the English lexicon. The city is home to s...Read more

Goma is the capital and largest city of the North Kivu Province in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). It is located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, next to the Rwandan city of Gisenyi. It shares its borders with Bukumu Chiefdom to the north, the Republic of Rwanda to the east, Masisi Territory to the west, and is flanked by Lake Kivu to the south. The city lies in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift System, and lies only 13–18 km (8.1–11.2 mi) south of the active Nyiragongo Volcano. With an approximate area of approximately 75.72 square kilometers, the city has an estimated population of nearly 2 million people according to the 2022 census, while the 1984 estimate placed the number at 80,000.

Goma is administratively divided into two urban municipalities: Goma and Karisimbi, which are further subdivided into 18 quarters, colloquially recognized as "neighborhoods" in the English lexicon. The city is home to several notable landmarks, including Goma International Airport, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Virunga National Park, which is home to endangered mountain gorillas, the private Christian co-educational school Adventist University of Goma, and the significant public institution University of Goma. The city also hosts the Université libre des Pays de Grand Lac, which supports local development initiatives. Parenthetically, Goma is home to the province's most prominent football clubs, Association Sportive Kabasha and Daring Club Virunga.

The recent history of Goma has been dominated by the volcano and the Rwandan genocide of 1994, which in turn fueled the First and Second Congo Wars. The aftermath of these events was still having effects on the city and its surroundings in 2010. The city was captured by rebels of the March 23 Movement during the M23 rebellion in late 2012, but it has since been retaken by government forces.

Goma is the home of the annual Amani Festival which celebrates peace and in 2020 it attracted an audience of 36,000.

The village of Ngoma was a port for lake traffic and a crossroads for the overland trade routes between Central Africa and the Indian Ocean. In 1894, the explorer Gustav Adolf von Götzen, following the footsteps of an earlier missionary, was traveling to Rwanda from the eastern coast of Africa and passed through the village, which he recorded as Goma.[1][2] In 1906, officers of the Congo Free State established Goma post opposite Gisenyi as a military outpost to oversee maritime activities on Lake Kivu, which later transformed into a civil status office.[3][4] Around 1930, the Goma precinct accommodated camps for laborers of the Eastern Railway (CFE), initially sited along Lake Kivu's eastern shores.[4] By the mid-20th century, Goma had become an essential hub, serving as the endpoint of the vici-Goma network and a port for the transshipment of agricultural commodities and building materials to and from Bukavu.[4] In 1945, Goma burgeoned into a state post under Rutshuru Territory's jurisdiction, experiencing a rapid demographic upsurge with approximately 1,000 inhabitants by 1948.[4][5]

The city's significance continued to rise, leading to its designation as an extra-customary center in 1945, with an estimated population of 8,600 residents.[4] In 1951, Goma was elevated to the territorial and capital level of North Kivu, reflecting its economic importance and the influx of settlers during the late 1940s and early 1950s. This period also witnessed movements advocating for administrative separation between Goma and Rutshuru, leading to the establishment of deliberative and executive bodies in Kirotshe and later in Sake.[4]

The urban sprawl of Goma adhered to the tenets of a classic colonial planning paradigm with the demarcation of separate neighborhoods for Europeans (cité Européenne) and indigenous Congolese (cité indigene).[6] The latter was limited to contemporary Birere, a densely populated neighborhood abutting the Rwandan border. Meanwhile, the neighborhoods allocated for European settlers were concentrated within the contemporary city center (quartier les Volcans) and an enclave of the Himbi neighborhood, which persists as the most urbanized, affluent, and wealthy parts of the city.[6]

On December 25, 1966, North Kivu regained its district status before becoming a region following the constitutional referendum of June 1967.[4] By July 10, 1988, North Kivu attained its regional autonomy, promulgating its status as a sovereign entity within the tripartite division of the Kivu region into provinces: North Kivu, South Kivu, and Maniema. As a result, Goma became the provincial capital of the newly established North Kivu Province.[4]

1994 Hutu refugee crisis

The Rwandan genocide of 1994 was executed by the interim Rwandan government against the Tutsi population and Hutu moderates. In response, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), formed by Tutsi refugees from Uganda, who already held control over significant portions of northern Rwanda after their invasion in 1990 and the ongoing Civil War, overthrew the Hutu government in Kigali, forcing them out.[7][8][9][10] Over two million Hutus fled the country to Zaire and many Tutsis and Hutus were internally displaced within Rwanda.[11] Various UN missions attempted to establish safe zones and facilitate the movement of refugees. Between June 13 and July 14, 1994, an overwhelming number of refugees, ranging from 10,000 to 12,000 per day, fled across the border to Goma, resulting in a severe humanitarian crisis,[12] as there was an acute lack of shelter, food and water. However, the Zaïrean government took it upon itself to garner attention for the situation. Shortly after the arrival of nearly one million refugees,[13] a deadly cholera outbreak swept through the Hutu refugee camps near Goma, claiming thousands of lives. RPF-aligned forces, which had fought in the conflict, crossed the border to Zaire and in acts of revenge also claimed several lives.

 Aerial photograph of the Mihanda refugee campFirst Congo War

As early as mid-1996, infiltrated units from Rwanda began targeting Hutu refugee camps along the Rutshuru road, even before formal hostilities began. On the evening of June 27, 1996, an infiltrated group allegedly carried out an attack on the Kibumba refugee camp, resulting in casualties among Hutu refugees, soldiers from the Contingent Zaïrois pour la sécurité des camps (CZSC), and Red Cross personnel.[14]

During the First Congo War, from mid-October 1996, Rwandan infiltrations intensified, accompanied by sporadic attacks on refugee camps along the Goma to Rutshuru road by the newly formed Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo (AFDL), a rebel movement led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila, and Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) led by Paul Kagame, who aimed to overthrow Mobutu's regime and accused him of excluding Tutsis from political representation and failing to prevent génocidaires.[14] The Kibumba camp, situated twenty-five kilometers north of Goma, was the first to fall under assault. On the night of October 25-26, 1996, AFDL and RPA soldiers bombarded the Kibumba camp, resulting in casualties among Hutu refugees and the destruction of the camp's hospital. Subsequently, approximately 194,000 refugees fled Kibumba towards the Mugunga camp.[14] The Katale camp also faced attacks on the same night, but Forces Armées Zaïroises (FAZ)/CZSC soldiers and ex-FAR/Interahamwe units repelled the assailants initially.[14] However, on October 26, 1996, AFDL and RPA forces attacked the Katale camp, resulting in numerous Hutu refugee casualties and the death of a Zairian soldier. They also allegedly killed several Hutu refugees using bladed weapons. Following confrontations with FAZ soldiers and ex-FAR/Interahamwe units from the Katale camp, who offered reinforcement, AFDL and RPA forces seized control of the FAZ military camp at Rumangabo.[14]

By October 30, refugees from Katale and Kahindo camps began to depart, with some heading towards Masisi via Tongo, while others attempted to reach the Mugunga camp through the Virunga National Park. However, AFDL and RPA troops had blocked the road to Goma, complicating the refugees' escape routes. On October 31, 1996, AFDL and RPA soldiers allegedly massacred hundreds of Hutu refugees who remained in the Kahindo and Katale camps.[14] Roberto Garretón, the Special Rapporteur on the violation of human rights in Zaire, estimated the casualties and highlighted the brutality inflicted on the refugees.[14]

In the aftermath of AFDL/RPA offensives in North Kivu, some refugees opted to return to Rwanda, though their numbers remained small. UNHCR reported approximately 900 Hutu refugees returning to Rwanda between October 26 and October 31, 1996. The reluctance of many refugees to return stemmed from both physical and psychological pressures, including fear of reprisals from AFDL/RPA soldiers.[14] There were reports of AFDL/RPA soldiers killing refugees who expressed a desire to return to Rwanda.[14] Determining the exact number of refugees killed by AFDL/RPA soldiers in attacks along the Goma to Rutshuru road was challenging. However, local NGOs involved in burial operations provided insights into the scale of the atrocities. The United Nations Mapping Report Team documented numerous alleged incidents, including mass burials and killings in and around refugee camps between November 1996 and April 1997.[14] The violence extended beyond the dismantling of refugee camps; Hutu survivors faced persecution while attempting to flee. In November 1996, AFDL/RPA soldiers reportedly targeted Hutu survivors from Kahindo and Katale camps, executing adult males.[14] These survivors, along with others who resettled in makeshift camps, were subjected to further attacks in the Virunga National Park, resulting in additional casualties.[14] The atrocities persisted for several months, with killings reported well into 1997. Witness testimonies highlighted the grim reality faced by refugees, with bodies discovered daily in former camp sites.[14] On April 11, 1997, AFDL/RPA soldiers allegedly massacred hundreds of refugees near Kibumba village. These refugees, intercepted while attempting to return to Rwanda, were detained and subsequently killed by AFDL/RPA forces.[14]

By the end of 1997, AFDL rebels advanced to Kinshasa, driving out Mobutu and leading to Laurent-Désiré Kabila proclaiming himself president on May 17, renaming the country the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).[15]

Second Congo War

Within a year of assuming power, Laurent-Désiré Kabila found himself in conflict with his former allies, and in 1998, the Rwandan government threw its support behind a Goma-based rebel movement known as the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), occasionally denoted as RCD-Goma.[16][17] The Goma refugee encampments, where Hutu refugees and Interahamwe militants had forged a militia known as the Democratic Force for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), morphed into battlegrounds as Rwandan government forces and the RCD clashed with them to assert dominion.[18][16]

On August 2, 1998, General Sylvain Buki announced via Radio-Télévision Nationale Congolaise (RTNC) in Goma that a rebellion had erupted within the Congolese Armed Forces (FAC).[19] The 10th Brigade of the FAC mutinied, leading to the swift capture of Goma by the RCD and Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), with minimal resistance. Goma remained beyond the reach of the Kinshasa government's forces for nearly three years, save for sporadic barrage.[19] Amidst these conflicts, the RCD's bias towards the local Tutsi community, Rwandan interference in provincial affairs, and the brutality of RCD and RPA troops towards civilians in North Kivu prompted many locals to join Mayi-Mayi armed groups to defend their communities. The Mayi-Mayi militias utilized forested areas and national parks as bases for launching attacks against RCD and RPA forces.[19]

With support from Kinshasa, the Mayi-Mayi and ALiR intensified ambushes and pillaging against RCD/RPA soldiers and civilian populations. Consequently, RCD/RPA control was limited to certain urban areas. In response, they increased search operations in various regions.[19]

The Second Congo War was unprecedented in Africa for the loss of civilian life in massacres and atrocities. By 2003, the Rwandan Banyamulenge-supported insurgent factions wearied of the conflict, and discord surfaced between them and Rwanda. In 2002 and 2003, a tenuous negotiated peace ensued among the myriad factions embroiled in the conflict.[20][21]

Ongoing conflict  Aerial view of Goma in October 2010

Since the conclusion of the Second Congo War, Goma has been plagued by conflict despite the peace agreements of 2002. In 2006, it became a focal point for the FARDC's 81st and 83rd Brigades, who remained faithful to Congolese Tutsi military defector Laurent Nkunda, who accused the government of neglecting to assimilate his military faction into the national army and failing to safeguard their interests.[22][23] Numerous heinous crimes were committed by Nkunda during his reign of terror. In 2002, he sanctioned the massacre of over 150 people in Kisangani.[24] In Bukavu, in 2004, his cohorts, alongside Colonel Jules Mutebusi, perpetrated rapes and arbitrary detentions of innocent civilians, mainly targeting young girls.[24][25] Human Rights Watch clamored for Nkunda's arrest in February 2006,[24] but it wasn't until June of that year that his military faction made significant territorial gains, capturing localities like Bunagana in Rutshuru Territory, located 80 km from Goma.[26]

 View of houses in Goma, 2014

Despite initial setbacks and repulsions by FARDC's 9th Integrated Brigade,[26] Nkunda's forces maintained control over certain areas like Bunagana and Runyoni, displacing over 80,000 people by December 2006, with a significant portion seeking refuge in the outskirts of Goma.[27] The conflict escalated further in May 2007 with the arrest of 14 Rwandans, including soldiers from Nkunda's brigade, and reports from MONUSCO of his militias in North Kivu wearing variegated Rwandan army uniforms.[28] The crisis deteriorated rapidly as clashes between the FARDC and Nkunda's troops intensified, leading to mass displacements and asylum-seeking in Goma.[29]

On October 27, 2008, the Battle of Goma broke out in the city between the Congolese army, supported by MONUSCO, and Nkunda's CNDP rebels; 200,000 refugees fled the town.[30] On 3 November 2012 there was a clash between Congolese and Rwandan troops on the border just north of Goma. Goma was later seized by the M23 movement on November 20, 2012.[31] During the M23's brief rule, the city endured ten days of chaos, marked by looting and executions, bringing economic activities to a standstill and forcing residents into seclusion.[32][33]

On, February 22, 2021, the Italian ambassador, Luca Attanasio, was killed in an apparent kidnapping attempt near Virunga National Park. He was part of the U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP). Two others were also killed.

As of March 2022, the clashes between the FARDC, the M23, and various armed groups in North Kivu have displaced over one million people. Among them, more than 600,000 have fled to overcrowded and unsanitary camps on the fringes of Goma.[34] Gender-based violence has also soared in the region, resulting in the prevalence of a pervasive culture of impunity. Between April 17 and 30, 2023, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams treated 674 victims of sexual violence in camps like Bulengo, Lushagala, and Rusayo, with 360 cases reported solely from the latter, a recently established and densely inhabited settlement situated to the west of Goma.[34] The vast majority of these victims were attacked while venturing outside the displaced sites in search of basic necessities like firewood and sustenance.[34]

The M23's offensive in early February 2024 around Sake, roughly twenty kilometers from Goma, exposed civilians to heavy fighting and forced more displacement towards Goma and previously settled sites or with host families on the Sake-Bweremana axis towards the province from South Kivu in the Kalehe Territory.[35] This influx of displaced people strains already limited resources and infrastructure, making it increasingly challenging to meet the needs of affected communities. Some regional initiatives have addressed the crisis, with the deployment of Southern African Development Community (SADC) forces and summits between heads of state to relaunch the peace process and secure a ceasefire in the region.[35]

On February 12, South Africa announced it would send 2,900 troops as part of its contribution to the SADC force deployed to tackle armed groups in the eastern DRC.[36] On February 15, two South African soldiers were killed and three wounded by a mortar bomb launched by M23 rebels.[37] The road to lasting peace remains fraught with challenges, including the need for direct dialogue between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.[35]

Ongoing neighborhood insecurity

Since early 2019, violent crimes such as murders, robberies, and kidnappings have plagued outlying neighborhoods, notably Ndosho and Mugunga in Karisimbi commune.[38] Ndosho, known for its bustling markets and brothels, is characterized by high crime rates and ethnic heterogeneity, while Mugunga, predominantly populated by Hutus, formerly hosted extensive refugee camps in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide, alongside sizable IDPs settlements during periods of heightened conflict between the CNDP (and subsequently M23) and the FARDC from 2008 to 2010 and 2012 to 2013.[38] Although the camps have been dismantled, the neighborhood is characterized by a high number of former IDPs (Hunde and Hutu) who settled in Mugunga. Both neighborhoods border Virunga National Park to the north and the main road to Sake to the south, dividing the Goma and Karisimbi communes, with diurnal activities centered along this road.[38] A significant of Mugunga's inhabitants, including brigands and maibobo (street children), gravitate towards Ndosho during daylight hours, lured by its superior commercial prospects. Throughout the day, encounters with insecurity primarily revolve around pickpocketing, extortion by maibobo, gang-related harassment, and coercive measures employed by security personnel in Ndosho.[38] Brigandage and petty crime have evolved into a viable means of subsistence for many and are part of an urban economy of survival and enrichment. Pilfered merchandise goods are openly sold in the markets, with numerous criminals attaining notoriety within their neighborhoods and certain gang leaders achieving city-wide renown.[38] During the night, security conditions worsen and become more violent. Most residents return to their homes, while mixed patrols of the Police Nationale Congolaise (PNC) and Police Militaire (PM) units, along with gangs, prowl around the streets. Without pedestrian traffic and under the cloak of darkness, it becomes easier for bandits, thieves, and even unscrupulous police and military officers to operate.[38]

2018–2020: Ebola epidemic and COVID-19 pandemic

A pastor infected during the 2018–2020 Kivu Ebola epidemic in the region was found in mid-July 2019 to have travelled to Goma.[39]

In August 2019, Rwandan Health Minister Diane Gashumba announced that students in Rwanda would cease attending school in Goma due to the Ebola outbreak, which has claimed the lives of over 1,800 people within the past year.[40]

The COVID-19 pandemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo caused the cancellation of the Amani Festival in 2021 but it resumed as usual in February of 2022.[41]

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"South Africa to deploy 2,900 troops to fight armed groups in eastern Congo". Reuters.com. London, England. Retrieved 2024-03-02. ^ Peyton, Nellie (February 15, 2024). Russell, Ros (ed.). "South African military: 2 soldiers killed, 3 wounded on Congo mission". Reuters.com. (ed.). Oatis, Jonathan. London, England. Retrieved 2024-03-02. ^ a b c d e f Hendriks, Maarten; Büscher, Karen (September 2019). "Insecurity in Goma: Experiences, actors and responses" (PDF). Riftvalley.net. Nairobi, Kenya: Rift Valley Institute. pp. 22–27. Retrieved 2024-03-02. ^ "First Ebola patient in DR Congo's Goma dies". Al Jazeera English. July 16, 2019. Retrieved October 16, 2019. ^ "Italian ambassador to DR Congo killed in UN convoy attack". BBC News. 22 February 2021. Retrieved February 22, 2021. ^ "Le Festival Amani à Goma - Du 4 au 6 février 2022". amanifestival.com. Retrieved 2022-02-05.
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