The Forgotten City – Goma (Joel Bagheni & Radek Wierzbicki)

Since June 2022, thousands of people have moved north to the city of Goma, fleeing clashes between the loyalist army and the M23/RDF rebels in Rutshuru territory. For the time being, other civilians continue to reach the city from the western side, from Masisi territory.

But this war has progressed towards the territory of Masisi where there are also displacements on the east side of the city. Since the beginning of this tragic situation there have been camps for internal displaced persons which have been set up on the outskirts of the city of Goma which have accommodated more than 838,940 displaced persons, all of whom have abandoned them to save their lives.

The M23 war spares neither civil nor military massacres are recorded here and there in villages and cities. According to some reports they have 171 killed in the only locality of Kibirizi which makes a total of 17300 people killed.

Goma, a once vibrant city situated in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has tragically become a landscape of horror and desolation. Unsung Heroes delves into the heart-wrenching reality of Goma, shedding light on the staggering numbers of violence, displacement, and the urgent need for attention and support in the face of unspeakable atrocities. 

Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, is home to over 1 million people. The entire province of North Kivu has an estimated population of several million individuals. We also must add around five million displaced people who live nearby. Sadly, these communities have been marred by an alarming scale of violence. It is estimated that tens of thousands of lives have been lost in North Kivu due to the ongoing conflicts, leaving families shattered and communities torn apart.

The displaced population suffer from several problems and these problems also affect the host population (which has hosted the displaced) they have several major challenges such as the holistic care of raped people because according to an MSF report they record 48 victims of sexual violence per day and even people raped in their home environment by the m23 rebels moved with the sexually transmitted diseases they contracted during the rape, not to mention the psychological after-effects. According to the MSF, there are camps that can hold more than 170,000 people with a water supply of 60m3. Sanitary facilities are minimal and lack medicines because in clinic centers set up in camps and the surrounding area they have a reception staff of 400% bed occupancy.

The resource-rich province of North Kivu has attracted the attention of international corporations seeking to exploit its valuable commodities. However, this influx of business interests has also brought with it a darker side. Mafia-like networks have taken hold, exacerbating the conflict and perpetuating the cycle of violence for their own gain. These criminal networks profit from the exploitation of minerals, such as uranium, diamonds, and cobalt, further fueling the unrest and suffering in the region.

The political opinions surrounding North Kivu and Goma remain divided. The region’s strategic significance due to its mineral wealth has, at times, overshadowed the desperate need for peace and stability. Politicians have struggled to effectively address the complex issues at play, leaving the people of Goma and North Kivu feeling neglected and abandoned by those in power. The lack of robust governance and political will to resolve the crisis has perpetuated the suffering endured by the residents.

The situation for women and girls in North Kivu is deeply concerning, as they face significant challenges and are disproportionately affected by the ongoing conflict and violence. Here are some key aspects of their situation:

  • Sexual Violence: North Kivu has been notorious for widespread sexual violence against women and girls. Armed groups and militias have used sexual violence as a weapon of war, perpetrating rape, sexual slavery, and other forms of gender-based violence. The scale of sexual violence in the region is alarming, with countless women and girls experiencing physical and psychological trauma.
  • Impunity and Lack of Justice: Perpetrators of sexual violence often act with impunity, rarely facing consequences for their crimes. The lack of a strong and effective justice system contributes to a culture of impunity, where survivors are denied justice, and the perpetrators continue to commit acts of violence without fear of punishment.
  • Displacement and Vulnerability: The conflict and violence in North Kivu have led to high levels of displacement, with women and girls comprising a significant portion of the internally displaced population. Displacement exposes them to increased risks of exploitation, including sexual violence, trafficking, and forced labor. The lack of secure living conditions and limited access to essential services further exacerbate their vulnerability.
  • Limited Access to Education: The conflict and displacement have severely disrupted education systems in North Kivu, disproportionately affecting girls’ access to education. Many girls are unable to attend school due to safety concerns, cultural barriers, or economic pressures. The denial of education perpetuates a cycle of poverty and limits future opportunities for women and girls.

Addressing the situation for women and girls in North Kivu requires a multifaceted approach that includes strengthening the rule of law, providing comprehensive support services, ensuring access to education, and promoting gender equality. It is crucial to support local organizations and initiatives that advocate for the rights and well-being of women and girls, and to work towards long-term solutions that foster a safe and inclusive environment for all.

International corporations, attracted by the vast mineral resources in North Kivu, have established operations in the region. Their presence, while offering potential economic benefits, has also raised concerns about exploitation and ethical practices. The involvement of these corporations in resource extraction has been criticized for exacerbating conflicts, human rights abuses, and contributing to the environmental degradation of the region. It is crucial for international corporations to prioritize responsible business practices and contribute positively to the social and economic development of the communities in which they operate.

Urgent Call for Action

The dire situation in Goma and North Kivu demands immediate attention and decisive action. The international community, governments, and humanitarian organizations must join forces to address the root causes of the conflict, provide:

  • essential humanitarian aid,
  • support sustainable development initiatives,
  • the creation of opportunities and guaranteeing responsible business practice.

Efforts should focus on promoting peace, justice, and economic opportunities for the affected communities, while ensuring responsible business practices by international corporations. 

Goma, a city once filled with hope and potential, has been tragically transformed into a symbol of horror and despair. The staggering numbers of violence, displacement, and the presence of mafia networks highlight the urgent need for international attention and support. By addressing the underlying causes of the conflict, holding accountable those involved in human rights abuses, and fostering responsible corporate practices, we can pave the way for a brighter future in Goma and North Kivu. Only through collective action can we bring an end to the suffering and restore hope to the forgotten city and its resilient inhabitants.

Joel – Country’s Head Unsung Heroes Congo, Democratic Republic, opinion about Goma Today and Goma in 3 years:

The city of Goma and its outskirts were once an environment where they were good to live but in an acute underdevelopment with the internet which was a luxury those who could have access, the business opportunities were not, the Electricity and water was not available in most of the city and the province of North Kivu. Currently the province is more and more destroyed by the conflicts which, instead of advancing, they are destroying even the little that has already been done, no free circulation in trade, no education of children in conflict zones, no electricity in territories and the outskirts of the city. 

In the next 3 years I think if we continue in this direction the city will experience a considerable decline but with the contribution and the collective actions we hope for a recovery and a future development.


Joel Bagheni

Radek Wierzbicki