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Abstract

This chapter addresses rural–urban transformations in the Kivu provinces, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and more particularly focuses on the complex relationship between dynamics of violent conflict and the emergence of urban mining ‘boomtowns’. Mining towns offer fascinating sites from which to investigate the socio-economic and spatial effects of a protracted history of violence, displacement and militarisation. They are the spatial outcomes of dynamics of the transformative power of violent conflict. Moreover, this chapter demonstrates how they also offer interesting spatial as well as analytical starting points from which to study the political geographies of war dynamics in Eastern DRC. It will be argued that the reason why these mining towns evolve into strategic ‘resources’ in violent struggles for power and control is to be found in their urban character as much as in the presence of natural resources. As such, this chapter analyses the process of mining urbanisation in the Kivu provinces as part of (armed) elites’ spatial politics of power and control. As demographic concentrations and economic nodes, mining towns represent important political, economic and social resources for ‘big men’, armed groups and the Congolese state in their broader political struggles for power, legitimacy and authority. In a context of fragmented and multi-scalar governance, the urbanisation process of these towns is the outcome of a complex interaction and contestation of different forms of agency. Based on three ethnographic cases of mining towns that emerged from diverse dynamics of artisanal mining activities and forced displacement, this chapter contributes to broader academic and policy debates on the political nature of mining urbanisation in a context of conflict and fragmented governance.

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