Le Petit Barrier

In a cloud of smoke and dust sits volcano Nyiragongo behind the twin towns Goma and Gisenyi at the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. It’s before dawn in the hills at Lake Kivu.

On the road winding through small villages, people march in the direction of Gisenyi at the usual brisk Rwandan pace. They carry lemons, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, cabbage, carrots, and beans on the head – and sometimes a toddler on the back. Cargo bicycles race down the hilly roads, tricycles transport heavy loads. Their destination is the centre of the town: le Petit Barrier – the border to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Apart from Gisenyi’s own marketplace, there is yet another, even more important place for trading: Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Despite the years of conflict at the border between Rwanda and DR Congo, people from both countries trade goods on a daily basis. Controlled by police, a constant stream of goods crosses the border. Traders pay taxes (sometimes more than once…) to enter and crisscross the neighborhoods of Goma to sell their goods. In return, second hand clothes are imported back to Rwanda, and sold on the market. Shortly before the border closes at 6 pm, the stream of villagers heads back.

Left: Early morning in a village near Rubona in Rwanda. Right: Petit Barrier: A tricycle carries goods over the border between Gisenyi and Goma.
Left: Early morning in a village near Rubona in Rwanda. Right: Petit Barrier: A tricycle carries goods over the border between Gisenyi and Goma.
On the road winding through villages, people march in the direction of Gisenyi carrying vegetables for trading at the border. A woman carries her toddler on the back walking towards Gisenyi at Lake Kivu, Rwanda.
On the road winding through villages, people march in the direction of Gisenyi carrying vegetables for trading at the border. A woman carries her toddler on the back walking towards Gisenyi at Lake Kivu, Rwanda.
Left: Marketplace in Gisenyi, Rwanda. Right: At the foot of Nyiragongo volcano: Avenue de l'Umuganda in Gisenyi, Rwanda.
Left: Marketplace in Gisenyi, Rwanda. Right: At the foot of Nyiragongo volcano: Avenue de l’Umuganda in Gisenyi, Rwanda.