23 November, 2009Issue 10.4AfricaPhoto Essays

Email This Article Print This Article

Borderland

Andrea Purdeková with Sarah Leyla Puello

……………………………………………………………………………………………

[imagebrowser id=14]

……………………………………………………………………………………………

Lake Kivu is the natural border between Gisenyi, a town of approximately 106,000 people in the northwest of Rwanda, and Goma, its Congolese neighbour. During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, 10,000 to 12,000 refugees fled into Goma each hour. Today, the two cities form a cross-border economic node that defies the physical boundary known by locals as “la grande barrière”.

While an uneasy security has been restored in Rwanda, a war economy continues across the lake and into its horizons as instability and insecurity reign in the DRC.

The reprieve of this borderland is simultaneously dream, vision, and stark reality. There is a sense of atonement in daily life around Kivu; and yet, the heavily contaminated “exploding lake” is prone to violent and dangerous outbursts of methane gas.

In a twist characteristic of such “post-conflict” spaces, the former seat of the genocidal government is now Lake Kivu’s star attraction, the popular upscale Serena Hotel.

§

Sarah Leyla Puello is reading for a DPhil in Modern Languages at Wolfson College, Oxford. She specialises in the representation of Buenos Aires and Paris in 20th-century French and Latin American poetry. Sarah is a senior editor at the Oxonian Review.

Andrea Purdeková is reading for a DPhil in Development Studies at Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford. She is researching the politics of reconciliation and nation-building in post-genocide Rwanda, where she spent seven months doing fieldwork last year.