Goma 1994: notes from the field

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This article reflects on the varied and complex dynamics faced by humanitarian agencies working in the Goma area during a six-week period from mid-July 1994, shortly after the exodus of an estimated 850,000 refugees fleeing Rwanda who settled in the vicinity of Goma town in eastern Zaire, until the end of August 1994, which marked the period when the emergency phase of the humanitarian action in support of this refugee population began to stabilize. It considers three main dynamics, which were salient at the time: (1) the speed and size of the emergency; (2) the political environment inside the camps; (3) the traumas affecting the humanitarian environment. It covers the period when the author was assigned to support the emergency response to the crisis, and so combines personal reflections with reviews of some of the academic critique of the response by the international community. The article identifies the action as being critical to the evolution of international humanitarian response over the following two decades and concludes with a reflection on some of the lessons learned.
Original languageEnglish
Article number656646
Pages (from-to)254-267
Number of pages13
JournalGenocide Studies International
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Apr 2017


  • Rwanda
  • Complex emergency
  • Political environment
  • Traumas
  • Complicity
  • Compromise
  • Humanitarianism


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