The European Journal of Development Research

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 53–71 | Cite as

War, Displacement and Rural–Urban Transformation: Kivu’s Boomtowns, Eastern D.R. Congo

  • Karen BüscherEmail author
  • Gillian Mathys
Special Issue Article


This article addresses rural–urban transformations in the war-torn Kivu provinces. The spectacular growth and development processes of fast-expanding boomtowns in Kivu’s rural areas serve as an entry point to investigate the relationship between conflict, displacement, urbanisation and development in Eastern D.R. Congo. Based on qualitative research on urban expansion in different smaller towns in North and South Kivu, this article analyses the characteristics of these ‘new’ urban spaces. It demonstrates that boomtowns represent centres of opportunities as well as contestation, and that they play an important role in the economic dynamics of development as well as in the political dynamics of stability and conflict.


DRC D.R. Congo Boomtown Conflict Urbanisation Kivu 


Cette étude traite les transformations rurales–urbaines dans les provinces du Nord et Sud Kivu (République Démocratique du Congo), ravagés par la guerre. La croissance et le développement spectaculaire des villes d'expansion rapide (en anglais : boomtowns) dans les zones rurales de Nord et Sud Kivu est utilisé comme point de départ pour étudier la relation entre le conflit, le déplacement, l’urbanisation et le développement dans l’est de la République Démocratique du Congo. Basé sur des recherches qualitatives sur l’expansion urbaine dans diverses petites villes au Nord et Sud du Kivu, cette étude analyse les caractéristiques de ces ‘nouveaux’ espaces urbaines. On démontre que les « boomtowns » sont des centres au même temps pleins d’opportunités et de contestation, et qu’elles jouent un rôle très important dans les dynamiques de l’économie du développement, ainsi que dans les dynamiques politiques du conflit et de la stabilité.



The research on Hombo Sud and Numbi has been made possible with the FWO Grant (G098012N) of the project “The social-economic impact of artisanal mining in Eastern Congo”. The research on Kitchanga was made possible through a grant from NWO-WOTRO (W 08.400.104) within the project “Looking through the lens of land”. Special thanks to Jeroen Cuvelier, Mathijs Van Leeuwen, Gemma van der Haar, and Lotje Devries for their indispensable help and input during the research. The authors wish to explicitly thank APC Bukavu and L.N, O.N, J.A.N, and one anonymous researcher for their indispensable help during the collection of data.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all the authors, the corresponding author states that there are no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© European Association of Development Research and Training Institutes (EADI) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Conflict Research Group, Department of Conflict & Development StudiesGhent UniversityGentBelgium
  2. 2.ECC (Economies, Comparisons, Connections), History DepartmentGhent UniversityGentBelgium

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