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Taking the Slow Boat to Support Projects

Insecurity and violence is a recurring issue in Goma. But right now, the problem is even closer to home for the Gorilla Organization

As violence rages, the endangered mountain gorillas of the Virunga National Park have been left more vulnerable than even as rangers struggle to reach them.

At its height, fighting was reported just 20km north of Goma and also to the west of the city, too. The conflict has made the N2 road too treacherous to use. The road is not only a lifeline for trade and resources. It’s also the main – often the only – way of getting to the National Park from Goma.


Without the road, rangers are unable to reach the gorillas they are committed to protecting. And Henry and his team cannot drive to the projects they are equally committed to running.

Henry (right) and team take to the water and get to work
The projects offer a lifeline to people who once relied on the gorilla habitat

But where there’s a will, there’s a way. For more than 15 years, Henry Cirhuza has led the Gorilla Organization’s projects in DR Congo. They really have seen it all. From earthquakes and the 2021 eruption of the Mount Nyiragongo volcano which looms large over the region through to public health emergencies and blackouts, they have kept their conservation and development projects going whatever the challenge. And so, over recent months, they have found a way to adapt to a new problem, the encirclement of Goma by rebel forces.

Instead, the team have started taking to the water. Though more time consuming, chartering a boat across Lake Kivu is a far safer way to get to the projects.  “We need to take more precautions to go supervise our projects these days,” Henry explains. “The city is almost completely surrounded, the roads are dangerous, but we still need to be there, to reassure our colleagues and keep our important work going.”

Given all they have endured over the years, the attitude among the citizens of Goma is one of resilience and slight optimism. For now at least, travelling by water remains the safest way to get from the Goma Resource Centre to the projects, allowing the team to maintain their long and proud record of always being there for the communities that rely on them.

This story was originally published in the Summer 2023 edition of Digit News. Read the full newsletter here.