The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is Africa's third largest country and relating to its population one of the most populated (approximately 50 million of inhabitants).
Sub-saharan state, Congo Kinshasa is situated in the South-Centre of Africa and it is surrounded by 11 Countries. Core region is a big basin to the west bounded by Mayumbé Mountains and to the east by Mitumba mountains, which are one of the highest chain in Africa.
DRC is considered one of the richest country in the continent relating to its agricultural potential and huge natural forests, which cover 50% of the soil representing 10% of tropical forests of the whole world. It is full of minerals too.
DRC is administratively shared in 11 provinces: Bandundu, Bas-Congo, Equateur, Kasai Occidental, Katanga, Kinshasa (the capital), Eastern and in the region of Kivu: Maniema, North and South Kivu.
Kivu is constituted by three provinces divided from 1988: Maniema (chief town: Kindu), North Kivu (chief town: Goma), South Kivu (chief town: Bukavu). From the political and administrative point of view, each region has in theory a self-government management.
Three provinces, historically belonging to the same region, cover an immense territory of 260,000 square kilometres representing about 11% of the national surface. There are 6 million of inhabitants who represent 16% of the entire population.
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Geographically, the three provinces of Kivu cover eastern part of the country that runs along the frontier with Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania beyond Tanganyika lake.
This territory has a lot of peculiar and unique characteristics in the DRC, especially for different climatic and geological conditions as well as its population.
The eastern part, relating to Maniema Province, is in the plateau and core basin areas.
Height reaches 500 metres and the equatorial forest overgrows an important portion of the area. These lowlands are barely populated. The climate is hot and the region has a short dry season. The agricultural output is composed of tuber (manioca), bananas, rice plantains, as well as industrial cultures such as oil palms, coffee etc.
Height rises towards the east and reaches 1,500/2,000 metres with peaks of 5,000 metres in a mountainous and plateau area. This area, relating to the north and the south of Kivu, is called "Mountainous" Kivu. It is the congoleese part of the large depression, characterised from range of mountains and tectonic deeps, that crosses from the north to the south of Africa for 1,400 kilometres, from the Red Sea to Zambesi River. This depression conditions the hydrographic net, because of a system of lakes that are situated at the bottom of it. From north to south there are the following lakes: Albert, George, Edward, Kivu and Tanganyika. The chain creates a division that splits up the waters of two big hydrographic basins of Congo and Nile rivers.
Relating to the climate, the region has different temperatures because of the succession of the heights starting from the west that enable heat flux to pass through the lowlands of Maniema to the temperate conditions of the northern and southern Kivu regions. In the North, the region is crossed by equator, but the altitude reduces the heat and average annual temperatures that reached 25° C in the mountainous Kivu. Average rainfall is all over the territory 1,400 millimeters, passing from a lowest of 1,200 millimeters in the south-eastern at the most of 2,200 millimeters in the wet equatorial area.
The eastern portion of Kivu, characterised by plateau and big lakes, has a good quality soil for agriculture and enable a large variety of food and industrial cultures either mild or tropical climate.
Some areas, especially around and in the north of Lake Kivu, are constituted by rich soil of volcanic origin. All these aspects contributed to improve population along north portion of lake Tanganyika and northern of region.
Relating to its orography, Kivu has three distinctive areas: the first one is that of central basin and western uplands; the second is constitued by the eastern plateau. Between these two areas there is one of "transition" where at a short distance of 400 kilometers, the height progressively decreases between 3.000 metres and 500 metres above sea level.
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The regional culture of Kivu is linked to tradition and socio-political environment as well as to external influences.
Its community culture is reflected in the social and economic organisation that it gives to it as well as in the values that its people share. The peculiar culture in Kivu involved different exchanges among ethnic groups during many generations of people.
The political structure, either the former colonial regime or the latter after independence, has influenced the social organisation, the standards of living and the political institutions, but it has not cancelled the traditional cultural practices, which already have a strong impact on the rural environment where 80% of regional people live.
Life styles are very similar to those that existed in previous years and the traditional practices have always had a big influence on daily activities such as agricultural techniques, feeding habits, the technique of building houses, the general movement of people and trading which not have changed a lot. This means that people maintain their tradition also in the social organisation: the leaders play a first-rate role in society, the ownership of land is constant and males and females keep their roles unchanged.
Tradition is of great importance among people and their families and there is a huge solidarity among distant relations. To a certain extent, this guarantees a social and economic security for all the family starting from a share of goods and earnings among its members. On the contrary, this practice brings those who are not as successful as others in the family to be considered and to live as parasite in it.
The culture and social behaviour in Kivu are characterised by a mixture of traditional and colonial influences that lead to a hierarchical system based on a strong discipline by the leader, the administrative managers or politicians. It is a paternalistic system, similar to a feudal one, where people are accustomed to receiving everything from the state or by the chief. A report from CCZC
(Population of the North-Eastern Zaire: population, health, education - September 1988) analyses this attitude:

" …that lead people to bow their head in front of every act from the Authorities. Such traditional attitude conditioned and go on conditioning every popular behaviour in front of the Authorities such as, State, Church, dealer or people more or less privileged".

This aspect is very important to understand the social organisation and the power relations in Kivu.
After independence, this passive attitude enabled people to submit themselves to the new political context and, in the meantime, to learn certain rules to survive: e.g. corruption, favouritism to receive a job or a tax abolition. First, many of them searched easy earnings without doing big effort; secondly the other lost their values and their social rules.
The administrative and political contexts do not make morality disappear in the community. In this way, the spiritual practices and beliefs are still alive. There are a lot of religious confessions beginning from the great religions such as Catholicism, Protestantism, Kimbanguism and Islamism, to a great deal of groups of Christian tradition.

In the daily life there is a combination of beliefs and practises that go from the traditional animism to dogmas and recognised religions. The presence of great religious groups and similar movements enable some communities to organise their socio-economic lives with the introduction of a health pedagogic system and trade, to foster of traditional agricultural technique etc. The religious life is an important aspect of the regional culture where different Missions play a spiritual role.
Different ethnic groups have as cultural characteristics, besides their peculiar languages and dialect, broad traditions including dances, songs, handicraft, music, costumes, a distinguished cooking and a particular way of life. This culture hands on with tales, riddles, songs, proverbs etc. But this education fades away little by little, particularly in the urban environment, and do not exist a political or community will to preserve or to foster it. It is clear that the most recent assets composed of buildings, public facilities and infrastructures, are decaying and disappearing.
The regional culture is also produced by influences and relations from the outside. These exchanges exist since ages and go on through trade, introduction of foreign products, tourism as well as the access to services and cultural assets coming from abroad.
Diffusion of cultural productions, either from Congo Kinshasa or from outside, is really difficult because of the state of road network and the lack of any facilities. The region is lacking in equipment and goods that enable it to develop a cultural and artistic life.
(...) Usually, the cultural exchanges were organised in public places or because of particular events: markets, familiar or religious feasts, marriages. This practise is still alive but it is not supported by places of diffusion that enable to introduce shows, plays, sport, cinema or to let people know the history of the country or of the region.
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From its geographic position, Kivu can be considered as the natural territory accepting migrants from the neighbouring countries.
The ethnic Communities located in the mountainous region of Kivu share a great deal of socio-cultural aspects with the Rwanda and Burundi populations.
Along the years, there were a lot of migrations among these communities that were reduced by marking the borderline.
The migrations exist since ages and for two main reasons. The first one depends on natural causes and on being in need of labour that pushed families or group of people to leave their environment in the search of land to cultivate, areas of living or work in big plantations.
In the last case, thousands of people coming from Rwanda went to Masisi or the Rutshuru area in order to work in the industrial agricultural production during the colonial period.
The second one is a socio-political cause related to social conflicts, wars or any of retaliation or disagreement that have obliged people to search another place to live.
Considering its big territories and its propitious climatic conditions, Kivu becomes an acceptance region for all these different kind of migrants.
It is difficult to know exactly how the migration phenomenon goes on. According to scientific census in 1984, 10% of population in the three regions and 20% of population in the North Kivu region are migrants. In fact, the World Bank during a mission in the urban environment of Kivu in 1987, estimated that a number comprised by 1,5 and 2 million of migrants, i.e. more than 25% of regional population, would be established in the region during previous decades. This difference between the World Bank figures and the data of the census could depend on the fact that newcomers declared themselves to be zaireeses (congoleeses) in the census in 1984, and so they were not classified as migrants.
It is undoubtedly that Kivu is up to the lack of spaces and cultivated land of Rwanda (inhabitants are more than 250 per kmq) and Burundi people, where people reach 200 inhabitants per kmq.
In these two countries where the agriculture is the main activity, the density of the rural environment with its three inhabitants on average per hectare on the rural surface has reached the saturation point that will improve the rural migration phenomenon in the next years.
The northern Kivu has known migration movement, organised by landowners, which have gathered thousands of workers.
In the southern Kivu the flux of migrants, mostly composed by Burundeeses, were less important. The main settlement areas are been Fizi, Uvira, Walungu and Mwenga while in the northern Kivu the provinces of Masisi, Rutshuru and Goma have welcomed the most part of migrants. Relating to Maniema, it seems that the migration phenomenon do not involve a lot of these provinces even if it is a huge territory with a big possibility of acceptance.
Besides the migration from the neighbouring countries, there are also the internal ones from the three provinces conntected to particular causes such as transhumance on the plateau which imply temporary displacement of farmers in search of new pasturages who usually be back to their home.
The phenomenon of gold handicraft production involves thousands of people who move close to the stope area. There are also the movement of people and families which every year leave rural areas overpopulated in search of a land to grow. This phenomenon regards about some thousand people per year, even if the administrative figures do not give any data or analysis in this sense.
These internal movements bring rural population to leave the uplands or landless areas to urban centres or fertile lands.
Another cause of migration is also constituted by the land ownership. In the 50s, the development of big farm obliged 4.000 banyamulenge families to leave their settlements for going to Shaba. A similar situation was occurred in Masisi province. Mostly, the conflicts between landowners and peasants obliged the latter to resettle themselves elsewhere. Relating to the territory overpopulated such as the mountainous Kivu, the migrants arrival provokes a strong increase of the population and has a big influence on the occupation and density of the soil.
Northern and Southern Kivu have a big gap in its development due to exhaustion of forests and rural spaces as well as overpopulated areas. There are also social tensions between the indigenous groups and the migrants.
The arrival of external or internal migrants raised a lot of problems: for farmers accustomed to grow in the height, the settlement in the lowland implies a strong cultural adaptability apart from different sanitary conditions: heat, malaria, sleeping sickness, etc. The settlement in these underdevelopped areas or uninhabited needs of infrastructures such as dispensaries, schools, churches, trade of provisions and materials, shops and canteens.
Altough these regions have a very big spaces suitable of settlement (Maniema: all the areas - North Kivu: Walikale and Lubero - South Kivu: Fizi, Mwenga, Shabunda), do not exist will or programmes to foster the settlement of migrants on these lands.
In northern Kivu some projects of peasants settlements are still organising and among them there is that of the UGIPA. (...) This experience has cope with some problems related to the peasants selection, their rights and duties in the project. A global evaluation would be necessary for implementing similar projects in other places of the region.
In spite of everything the needs linked to the increase of new fertile lands and population spaces seem very big.

(Main source: Schéma régional d'aménagement du Kivu, Sept. 1991) (back to menu)

(Translated by M.B.)







































































































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