Infobox City
official_name= Goma



map_caption=Location in the Congo
leader_name= Polydor Windi Kwawmrwha
area_magnitude=1 E7
population_as_of= 2004
population_total= 249,862
latd=1 |latm=41|lats= |latNS=S
longd=29|longm=14 |longs=|longEW=E

Goma is a city in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, next to the Rwandan city of Gisenyi. The lake and the two cities are in the western branch of the Great Rift Valley, and Goma lies only 13 to 18 km (8-11 mi) due south of the crater of the active Nyiragongo Volcano. The recent history of Goma has been dominated by the volcano and the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, which in turn fuelled the First and Second Congo Wars. The aftermath of these events was still having effects on the city and its surroundings in 2008.

Goma is capital of North Kivu province, ethnically and geographically similar to South Kivu (capital Bukavu); the two provinces are known as "the Kivus".

Effects of the Rwandan Genocide

Goma at the centre of the refugee crisis

The Rwandan Genocide of 1994 was perpetrated by the Hutu-dominated provisional Rwandan government on the Tutsi population. In response the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) formed by Tutsi refugees in Uganda invaded Rwanda, forcing the Hutu provisional government to Gisenyi. As the RPF won the upper hand, Hutus fled to Gisenyi then, from July 13 to July 14, 1994, 10,000–12,000 refugees per hour crossed the border into Goma as the Great Lakes refugee crisis took shape. The massive influx created a severe humanitarian crisis, as there was an acute lack of shelter, food and water. Shortly after the arrival of nearly one million refugees, a deadly cholera outbreak claimed thousands of lives in the Hutu refugee camps around Goma.

Goma in the First Congo War

Hutu militias and members of the Hutu provisional government were among the refugees, and they set up operations from the camps around Goma attacking ethnic Tutsis in the Kivus and Rwandan government forces at the border. For political reasons the Kinshasa government of the then Zaire led by Joseph Mobutu did not prevent the attacks, and so the Rwandan government and its Ugandan allies threw their support behind the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Zaire, a rebel movement led by Laurent Kabila against Mobutu. Rwandan forces stormed the camps at Goma, resulting in thousands of additional deaths, and with their help and that of Uganda, Kabila went on to overthrow Mobutu's regime in the First Congo War, ending in 1997.

Goma in the Second Congo War

Within a year Kabila had quarrelled with his former allies, and in 1998 the Rwandan government backed a Goma-based rebel movement against Kabila, the Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD, sometimes called RCD-Goma) made of Banyamulenge people, related to the Tutsis. They captured Bukavu and other towns, and the Second Congo War began. The Goma refugee camps, in which the Hutu had created a militia called the FDLR (Democratic Force for the Liberation of Rwanda), were again attacked by Rwandan government forces and the RCD.

The Second Congo War was unprecedented in Africa for the loss of civilian life in massacres and atrocities. By 2003 the Banyamulenge had become tired of the war and friction emerged between them and Rwanda. In 2002 and 2003 a fragile negotiated peace emerged between the many sides involved in the war.

Conflict since the end of the war

There have been numerous outbreaks of violence since 2003. The Hutu FDLR remains in the forests and mountains north and west of Goma, carrying out attacks on the Rwandan border and on the Banyamulenge. The Congolese defence forces are unable or unwilling to stop them, and as a consequence Rwanda continues to support Banymulenge rebels such as the RCD and General Nkunda, and to carry out incursions into North Kivu in pursuit of the FDLR.


In September 2007 large-scale fighting threatened to break out again as the 8,000-strong militia of General Nkunda, based around Rutshuru, broke away from integration with the Congolese army and began attacking them in the town of Masisi north-west of Goma. The United Nations began airlifting Congolese troops into Goma and transferring them by helicopter from Goma International Airport to Masisi. [http://www.guardian.co.uk/congo/story/0,,2161241,00.html "Fear of fresh conflict in Congo as renegade general turns guns on government forces."] Chris McGreal, "The Guardian", Monday September 3, 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2007.]

Volcanic activity around Goma

The Great Rift Valley is being pulled apart, leading to earthquakes and the formation of volcanoes in the area.

2002 Eruption of Nyiragongo

In January 2002, Nyiragongo erupted, sending a stream of lava convert|200|m|yd|0 to one kilometre (1,100 yd) wide and up to two metres (6½ ft) deep through the center of the city as far as the lake shore. Agencies monitoring the volcano were able to give a warning and most of the population of Goma evacuated to Gisenyi. The lava destroyed 40% of the city (more than 4,500 houses and buildings). There were some fatalities caused by the lava and by emissions of carbon dioxide, which causes asphyxiation. The lava also covered over the northern 1 km of the 3-kilometre (10,000 ft) runway of Goma International Airport, isolating the terminal and apron which were at that end. [ [http://www.eri.u-tokyo.ac.jp/KAZANKYO/n_report/72.pdf "Cooperative Observations at Nyiragongo Volcano in D.R. of Congo".] Earthquake Research Institute, University of Tokyo. Retrieved 3 September 2007.] The lava can easily be seen in satellite photographs, [ [http://earth.google.com Google Earth] has high resolution photographs showing the affected part of the airport at coordinates -1.658, 29.237. Retrieved 3 September 2007.] and aircraft can be seen using the 2-km (6,500-ft) southern section of the runway which is clear of lava.

In 2005, volcanic activity again threatened the city.

The threat posed by Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu is one of three lakes in African identified as having huge quantities of dissolved gas held at pressure in its depths. One of the others, Lake Nyos, experienced a limnic eruption or 'lake overturn', a catastrophic release of suffocating carbon dioxide probably triggered by landslides, which killed nearly two thousand people in the area around the lake. Kivu is 2,000 times bigger and also contains dissolved methane as an additional hazard. Nearly two million people including the population of Goma live in the vicinity of Lake Kivu and could be in danger from a limnic eruption triggered by one of the nearby volcanoes and the earthquakes associated with them. [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2001/killerlakes.shtml "Killer Lakes"] . "BBC Two", Thursday 4 April 2002. Summarised at www.bbc.co.uk.]

Other features of Goma

*The city centre is only convert|1|km|mi|1|abbr=on from the Rwandan border and convert|3.5|km|mi|1|abbr=on from the centre of Gisenyi.
*After being closed to international travel since the 2002 eruption of the volcano, the Goma International Airport now accepts commercial charter flights and also a passenger line travels from Nairobi to Goma.
*Goma has four or five lakeside wharves totaling about convert|130|m|ft|, the longest being about convert|80|m|ft|.
*Virunga National Park, home to mountain gorillas lies north of the city.
*National Road No. 2 connected Goma to Bukavu and Kisangani but at August 2007 had not been reopened after the damage caused by the wars and lack of maintenance.
*Goma was known for its nightlife but because of conflict in the area the nightlife is very limited now.

ee also

*Lake Kivu
*North Kivu
*South Kivu


External links

* Tom Casadevall of the United States Geological Survey; [http://www.cgs.uiuc.edu/resources/webvideo/casadevall_rwanda.html "The 1994 Rwandan Refugee Crisis: Cultural Awareness in Managing Natural Disasters" (1h28m streaming video)] . Lecture given at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on vulcanology around Goma

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