Reading and information sources

Reading and information sources

The history of Congo and the history of the Kivu region in particular has been told in words, images and film by many people and many organisations.

Here are some references you find helpful:


An excellent resource from Friends of Congo

Commentary by Human Rights Watch

Campaigning by the Enough Project


Campaigning by Falling Whistles

Interesting reports on armed groups from the Usalama project

The Congo Research Group maintains an interesting blog

There’s lots of stuff on Wikipedia including an exhaustive chronology of armed groups

French speakers will find up to date news from Radio Okapi

News is also available here

And here


Friends of Congo have produced several videos including this one on USA involvement

 Al Jazeera offer regular video reports

Vice feature several videos about Kivu and DRC


Congo, The Epic History of a People by David Van Reybrouck

Dancing in the Glory of Monsters by Jason Stearns

Congo by Thomas Turner

King Leopold's Ghost by Adam Hochschild

In the Footsteps of Mr Kurz by Michela Wrong

Places in Kivu: Bukavu

Places in Kivu: Bukavu

Bukavu was established in the early 1900’s by Belgian colonisers who built a lakeside town called Costermansville.  In the 1950’s the population numbered around 35,000 people.

The city was built on five peninsulas that reach out into Lake Kivu and are backed by high mountains rising to 2000 metres that provide a panorama of beautiful and contrasting landscapes.

The setting today is as attractive as it was in the 1950’s, but the population is now over 1.2 million people with most living in poor housing covering the surrounding hills and everyone making do with an inadequate water and electricity supply.  

Just a few kilometres from the city is the border with Rwanda at Rusizi near Cyangugu. Bukavu’s strategic location at the north end of the Rusizi valley on the border with Rwanda is one reason why the city suffered during the Congolese wars between 1996 and 2004 when rapes and massacres took place here.

Bukavu is now relatively peaceful and a pleasant place to live. The people are friendly and resourceful and mainly survive by means of small businesses found along the major roads. Daily life in areas like Essence is particularly hard. 

Here is a video introduction:

 In the city itself public taxis are available and most travel the long stretch of Avenue Lumumba, offering a shared ride for 500 Congolese Francs. It is possible to negotiate a direct fare to most parts of the city for $5 or less. There are several places to go out and dance to Congolese rumba tunes and enjoy a drink and something to eat. 

Places in Kivu: Idjwi

Places in Kivu: Idjwi

Idjwi is a large island in the middle of Lake Kivu. Administratively the island is divided into two chiefdoms, one in the north called Rubenga and one in the south called Ntambuka. Our work is concentrated in the north and has the support of the Mwami (or Chief) and his wife, both of whom are wise and highly respected.

This video gives some insight into the tranquility of the environment and friendliness of the people:

The island population has grown from 38,000 in 1978 to nearly 3000,000 today, the majority of whom practice subsistence agriculture. Such population growth is placing pressure on the land and forest at a time when a bacterial disease known as banana xanthomonas wilt is now wiping out much of Idjwi’s valuable banana and plantain crop. 

The loss of this staple crop combined with the shrinking amount of available arable land has led to increased poverty and malnutrition.  The people grow cassava, beans and sweet potato and many have turned to fishing on the lake to supplement their diet. Even so, according to a 2011 Harvard-led study, only 15 percent of the island’s residents have enough to eat, 50% of children have only one meal a day and Kwashiorkor (malnutrition in children caused by extreme protein deficiency) is a particularly pressing issue. The same report identifies high levels of violence against women and estimates that 92% of the people have malaria and 82% live on less than$1 per day. 

The indigenous Bambuti people suffer still more. They live in extreme poverty and earn on average only 10% of the money earned by the majority Havu people.

In some parts of the island there are artisanal mines that provide work for several hundred people. Digging underground by hand is dangerous and the miners put their lives at risk every day in search of cassiterite, coltant and niobium.

Here is a short video about them:

Coffee has been grown on the island for more than half a century and offers the islanders the best chance for a better future. Production techniques are being improved and direct exports are now facilitated by Ensemble Pour la Difference. The hope is that exports to Europe and the USA will end or at least reduce the smuggling to neighbouring countries. Locally made boats are used to smuggle the coffee across Lake Kivu. But the lake is subject to storms that sink the boats and as a result hundreds of coffee growers Idjwi have died.

In 1996, the island was overwhelmed by 46,000 Hutu refugees fleeing Rwanda in the wake of the Rwandan Civil War, which in turn led to attacks from Tutsis still waging war against the Hutus in retaliation for the Rwandan genocide.

 Since then the island have benefited from peace and there is a sense of tranquility and a friendliness extended to visitors that may oneday encourage tourists who might come to appreciate this quiet and quite beautiful corner of the country. It has been spared the presence of the FDLR and there is potential for ecotourism without the need for security measures. Paradoxically, the peace and security that has been given to Idjwi, is also its misfortune in that the island has been largely ignored by humanitarian agencies and is absent from the stabilization and reconstruction plans. 

Places in Kivu: Luvungi

Places in Kivu: Luvungi

Luvungi is a commercial and administrative town on the Rusizi Plain equidistant between Bukavu to the north and Uvira on the banks of Lake Tanganyika to the south. To the east of Luvungi is the Rusizi River and the border with Burundi at Cibitoke, and to the west and south is the Ruzizi plain, which is populated with many villages. 

Here is a video introduction:

 The town’s population is about 85,000 with people living mainly from growing rice, maize, cassava and groundnuts. In some areas cattle are raised and in other areas people cultivate fruit such as oranges, mangoes and mandarins. Artisanal mining is practiced near Lubarika, Munanira and Katokota but the main income opportunity is through rice grown in areas where the water table is high.

 Many of the people are young and unemployed. They have the potential to be a large workforce but due to a lack of opportunity, young men often enlist in the armed groups commonly known as ‘mai mai’. Many other young people move to neighbouring countries where they hope to find work and a better life.

 There is a pod of hippos on the Rusizi river that might be of interest to tourists.  The same stretch of river is used by small commercial boats and canoes to facilitate trade between the people from Burundi and Luvungi.