Eastern DRC’s Identity Crisis

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For my recent work trip to Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), home base was in Goma at the Ihusi Hotel. My room faced the lake, which was a wonderful backdrop for working and relaxing. The hotel is great and the staff is very accommodating, specifically the restaurant. The chefs made special dishes for me so that I wouldn’t have to eat the same pasta option every night.

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Goma, DRC borders Rwanda, and a border often makes a big difference. The Rwandan side is peaceful, very clean, and immigration is orderly and efficient. The Goma side is chaotic in every sense.

Eastern DRC is known for being dangerous with chronic outbreaks of violence, and women are often the main targets. The lesser touched upon facts — it has stunning landscapes and the people are kind and resilient.

The remnants of war are visible; homes with missing second floors and wood scaffolding are everywhere. It’s a bustling city full of small shops, outdoor markets and people whirling around on motorcycles.

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Though Eastern DRC remains an unpredictable region with numerous militias, it was easier to move around than in Kinshasa and locals were friendlier on the streets. Honestly, it was a relief to be able to leave the hotel with our members, talk to citizens and shop in stores.

On our way to Rutshuru Territory for a community social dialogue, much to my surprise, a massive chain of volcanoes loomed ahead of us.
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It took a few minutes to realize the gorgoeus mountains rising out of the mist were part of Virunga National Park. For those who have not watched it…there is a great documentary on protecting the wildlife, specifically the gorillas in Virunga. The park rangers also risk their lives at Virunga fighting oil exploration in the park.

All of a sudden when we were leaving the area, some of the animals wandered onto the main road. It was wonderful to witness.

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My hope is to go back as a tourist and spend a few days at the park.

In a region of DRC where there are little to no employment opportunities and a struggling economy. The landscape in Rutshuru Territory is lush. Growth in the agricultural sector has the opportunity to invigorate the economy in the region. For instance, coffee giant Starbucks recently invested in the future of 4,000 smallholder farmers in Lake Kivu by buying their coffee beans for the single-origin coffee in the reserve series.

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