Goma is a city in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is located on the northern shore of Lake Kivu, next to the Rwandan city of Gisenyi. The lake and the two cities are in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift system. Goma lies only 13 to 18 km due south of the crater of the active Nyiragongo Volcano. The recent history of Goma has been dominated by the volcano and the Rwandan Genocide of 1994, which in turn fuelled the First and Second Congo Wars. The aftermath of these events was still having effects on the city and its surroundings in 2010.
Goma is capital of North Kivu province, ethnically and geographically similar to South Kivu (capital Bukavu); the two provinces are known as "the Kivus".
Volcanic activity around Goma
The Great Rift Valley is being pulled apart, leading to earthquakes and the formation of volcanoes in the area.
2002 Eruption of Nyiragongo
Computer image of Nyiragongo volcano generated from satellite photographs, showing the Goma-Gisenyi conurbation on the lake shore in the foreground. In the background, left, is the Nyamuragira volcano.
In January 2002, Nyiragongo erupted, sending a stream of lava 200 metres (219 yd) to one kilometre (1,100 yd) wide and up to two metres (6½ ft) deep through the center of the city as far as the lake shore. Agencies monitoring the volcano were able to give a warning and most of the population of Goma evacuated to Gisenyi. The lava destroyed 40% of the city (more than 4,500 houses and buildings). There were some fatalities caused by the lava and by emissions of carbon dioxide, which causes asphyxiation. The lava also covered over the northern 1 km of the 3-kilometre (10,000 ft) runway of Goma International Airport, isolating the terminal and apron which were at that end. The lava can easily be seen in satellite photographs, and aircraft can be seen using the 2-km (6,500-ft) southern section of the runway which is clear of lava.
In 2005, volcanic activity again threatened the city. Currently the scientists at Goma are monitoring Nyiragongo.
The threat posed by Lake Kivu
Lake Kivu is one of three lakes in Africa identified as having huge quantities of dissolved gas held at pressure in its depths. Two of the others, Lake Monoun and Lake Nyos, experienced a limnic eruption or 'lake overturn', a catastrophic release of suffocating carbon dioxide probably triggered by landslides. Lake Nyos overturn was particularly lethal, killing nearly two thousand people in the area around the lake. Kivu is 2,000 times bigger than Lake Nyos and also contains dissolved methane as an additional hazard – though concentration of carbon dioxide is much lower than in Lake Nyos. Nearly two million people including the population of Goma live in the vicinity of Lake Kivu and could be in danger from a limnic eruption triggered by one of the nearby volcanoes and the earthquakes associated with them.
Other features of Goma
- The city centre is only 1 km (0.6 mi) from the Rwandan border and 3.5 km (2.2 mi) from the centre of Gisenyi.
- After being closed to international travel since the 2002 eruption of the volcano, the Goma International Airport now accepts commercial charter flights and also a passenger line travels from Nairobi to Goma.
- Goma has four or five lakeside wharves totaling about 130 m, the longest being about 80 m.
- Virunga National Park, home to endangered mountain gorillas, lies north of the city.
- National Road No. 2 connected Goma to Bukavu and Kisangani but at August 2007 had not been reopened after the damage caused by the wars and lack of maintenance.
- Goma was once known for its nightlife, but this is no longer the case due to the conflict.