by Max Barry

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by Congo equatorial. . 72 reads.

City in the Jungle: Kisangani

(Downtown Kisangani)

Kisangani (formerly Stanleyville) is the capital of Orientale Province in Congo Equatorial. It is the fourth largest urbanized city in the country and the largest of the cities that lie in the tropical woodlands of Congo Equatorial. It has a population of over 5 million people. It's mayor is Alphonse Bemba.

Formerly known as Stanleyville, the city takes its present name from Boyoma, the seven-arched falls located south of the city, whose name was also initially given to the landscape on which the city is located, Singitini (or Singatini) as rendered in Lingala, (Kisangani is from present Swahili), each of which share the same meaning "the City on the Island", in reference to the surrounding tributaries (whose waters separate much of Kisangani from the mainland). It is also known as "Kisangani Boyoma", and the demonym for Kisangani is Boyoman (or Boyomais in French). The language most spoken at home by the population in the city is Swahili, followed by Lingala which is the official language of Congo Equatorial.

Some 1,300 miles from the mouth of the Congo River, the city of Kisangani is the farthest navigable point upstream. Kisangani is the nation's major inland port after Kinshasa, an important commercial hub point for river and land transportation and a major marketing and distribution centre for the north-eastern part of the country. It has been the commercial capital of the northern Congo Equatorial since the late 19th century.

Kisangani has been home to influential politicians, including the national hero, Patrice Emery Lumumba, the first prime minister of the country. The city is also the place where Former president of Congo Equatorial, Alain Esengo grew up & where eventually gained support to overthrow the dictatorship government (Zaire), in 1995.


Henry Morton Stanley founded Stanley Falls Station in 1883, on the Island of Wana Rusari in the Congo River near the present town of Kisangani. During the mid-19th century the area was inhabited by a native Equato-Congolese tribe known as the Clans of Enya, who had used Wagenia Falls (nicknamed Stanley Falls by Stanley) for fishing. The island is located a few meters from the shore site of the present town on the Lualaba River its 7 falls spread over 100 km between Kisangani and Ubundu.

Some 1,300 miles from the mouth of the Congo River, Stanley founded the area's first trading post for King Leopold II of Belgium in December 1883. The city was known first as Falls Station (or "the Post Stanley Falls" or "The Falls" or simply "Boyoma" the African name of Boyoma Falls) and then with Belgian colonization of the area, it grew into a settlement called Stanleyville (after the explorer Henry Morton Stanley). A city terminus of steamer navigation on the Congo River, the town began as a Belgian trading post. It has been the major centre of the northern Congo since the late 19th century.

Stanley left Mr. Binnie, an engineer and a Scotsman, in charge to trade with the local people and to represent the Congo Free State. The name "Kisangani" was apparently used consistently by the local people, in conjunction with the name "Stanleyville" (as the city was referred to in French and respectively Stanleystad in Dutch). In Swahili the manual published by the Marist Brothers in the 20s, we find an example of substitution naming "from X to Stanleyville" which is translated "toka X Mpaka Kisangani". The name "Kisangani" is a Swahili rendering of the indigenous Equato-Congolese language word Boyoma, meaning "City on the Island", also rendered in Lingala as Singitini (or Singatini) with the same meaning.

Soon after the establishment of relational ties between the Africans and Europeans, East African slavers from Zanzibar, often erroneously called "Arabs" by European writers of the time, reached Stanley Falls. Relations between Free State Officials and the slavers were strained and after a fight the Station was abandoned in 1887. After the Arab-Euro wars in Congo Equatorial, in 1888 the Free State obtained (after negotiations in Zanzibar) an agreement to establish a form of power by appointing Mohammed Bin Alfan Mujreb Tippu Tip, one of the greatest Zanzibar slavers as first governor of the district of "Stanley Falls" stretching from eastern Tanganyika in Ituri through Maniema. Ultimately the Europeans gained complete control of the vast area in central Africa.

On 15 July 1898, Stanleyville began serving as the capital of the relatively prosperous District of the Eastern Province Stanley Falls. City status was achieved by incorporation Order No. 12/357 on 6 September 1958, which divided Stanleyville into 4 municipalities: Belgian I, Belgian II, Brussels and Stanley. Towards the end of 1958, the city became the stronghold of Patrice Emery Lumumba, the leader of the political party Mouvement National Congolais (MNC). His strong ties with the city had been forged during his days as one of 350 clerks at the central post office. After the assassination of Lumumba in 1961, Antoine Gizenga installed a government that competed with the central government in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa). Before the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960, Kisangani was reputed to have more Rolls-Royces per capita than any other city in the world.

In early 1964, the Simba Revolution occurred, mushrooming into outright rebellion by May and June. By August rebels had overrun Stanleyville from their bases in Wanie Rukula. They closed the airport and barred civilians from leaving, including at least one foreign consular staff. A number of American and European nationals taken captive, and following intense negotiations Operation Dragon Rouge was launched by Belgium, the Armée Nationale Congolaise (ANC), and a plethora of foreign mercenaries under Colonel Mike Hoare to free the hostages.

In 1966 and 1967, Kisangani was the site of the Mercenaries' Mutinies, which led to widespread looting. With the assumption of the "Zaireanization" program in the 1970s by Mobutu Sese Seko, Stanleyville was officially renamed Kisangani and Stanley Falls became Wagenia Falls, and as of 27 October 1977 the municipalities were renamed as follows: Belgian I (Mangobo and Tshopo ), Belgian II (Lubunga), Brussels (Kabondo) and Stanley (Makiso).

*In 1995, after Mobutu was assassinated, Alain Esengo & his soldiers conquered Kisangani first before any other territory in the country, before going on to rule the whole of Congo Equatorial.


Kisangani is strategically placed at the junction of the Congo, Tshopo, and Lindi rivers and at the crossroads between eastern and western Congo Equatorial. Approximately central of the African continent, it is located in North-eastern Congo Equatorial, central of Tshopo Province. The location at the northernmost tip of the Congo River, navigable for large waterborne cargo between Kinshasa and Kisangani, which feeds into a naturally transportation waterway for much of the Congo Basin, has helped the city grow in significance as a trading city.

Kisangani is at the centre of the Tshopo, and is bordered by the city of Banalia to the north, Ubundu and Opala territories to the south, Isangi to the west and Bafwasende municipalities to the east. The city of Kisangani lies 324 km from Buta, 572 kilometres (355 mi) of Isiro, 696 kilometres (432 mi) from Bunia and 2,912 kilometres (1,809 mi) from Kinshasa.

The Lualaba River flows through a bend to a confluence with the Congo River, at the alteration of the waterways lies the city of Kisangani. Much of Kisangani City is built on the location of land defined in between the river stretches of Tshopo river on its north and by the Congo River on its south. Many tributaries and islands are intertwined conducive to moving inland waterways. Tidal straits actually separate L'Île Mbiye from mainland of Kisangani City. The city is locally referred to as Boyoma after the prominent geographical feature on land, Boyoma Falls. The seven cataracts have a total drop of 61 meters (200 feet). Falls Wagenia where the fishery is installed on the rapids can be seen.

The city's land area is estimated at 1910 square kilometres. The City of Kisangani has a density of 229 inhabitants per km². The city seats in the midst of the vast and isolated Congo Basin, the second largest tropical woodlands on the planet. It is located at 0° 31' north latitude from the equator (57 km), 25° 11' east longitude from the meridian of Greenwich and 1 404.1 feet (428 meters) above sea level.

L'Île Mbiye is situated on the Congo River in the Eastern part of Kisangani. It is located upstream of the Wagenia Falls, between latitude 0°31' North and longitude 25°11' East, with 376m of altitude. It adjoins the town of Kisangani, and it is 14 km long and 4 km wide. All around Kisangani, L'Île Mbiye is the only ecosystem that has a dense forest that is relatively well preserved. The Island is part of the Sustainable Forest Management in Africa Symposium project of forest ecosystem conservation conducted by Stellenbosch University. The Island has an area of 1,400 ha, and it comprises three types of forest: dry land forest, periodically flooded forest and swampy forest.


Despite being adjacent to the equator, the city has a tropical monsoon climate due to the fact that its driest month (January) sees on average below 60 mm of rain. Kisangani experiences an average relative humidity of 86%.

Typical climate in regions through which the Congo River flows is that of Kisangani, a town situated on the river's right and left bank slightly north of the Equator. Humidity is high throughout the year, and annual rainfall amounts to 64 inches (1,620 mm) and occurs fairly regularly; even in the driest month the rainfall totals more than 2 inches (53 mm). Temperatures are also uniformly high throughout the year, and there is little diurnal variability. The average temperature at Kisangani is in the mid-20s°C (mid-70s°F). Kisangani is also a beneficiary of a cool breeze that often blows off the Congo River.


The city of Kisangani is composed of six large communes of which are further subdivided into smaller neighbourhoods. The partitioned communes are Lubunga, Makiso, Tolimo, Tshopo, Kabondo and Mangobo. Throughout the boroughs there are hundreds of distinct neighbourhoods, many with a definable history and character to call their own. All municipalities in the city have a nickname denoting how Boyoma perceive their cities. Therefore Kisangani, which in Swahili means on the island ("Kisanga" translates island and "ni" is on) is official given the nickname of "City of Hope" by administrative authorities in opposition to the title of martyred city. Boyomas' affectionately nicknamed their city "Boyoma Singa Mwambé", that translates as "before reaching the most beautiful city the pole must be thrown 8 times (Boyoma means the most beautiful girl, while Singa is the mast and Mwambé is the number 8).

-The Tolimo commune is a small commune & is a centre for nightlife with dozens of nightclubs located here. It is also known for it's huge population of hardworking fishermen, that are mostly employed for state owned 'fishing' companies that employ workers to fish in Wagenia Falls.

(A famous club in Congo Equatorial has a branch located in Tolimo)

-Mangobo is the city's most populous residential commune and is known as "Mathématique" because of the many complicated routes that pass in & out of the towering flats of the commune. It is also highly developed in some areas but also excessively crowded. The commune is also a clear example of the massive construction boom in Congo Equatorial as most people in this commune live in small apartments in the modern flats that we're completed around 2010-13. Despite the high density, flats are continuing to build up higher & more migrants to Kisangani are living in Mangobo because of the high quality, but cheaper housing.

(Densely packed flats in Mangobo)

-Tshopo is Kisangani City's northernmost commune, it features a long beachfront. Its home to an hydroelectric plant and the site of Tshopo River. It also has the highest foreign population in the city, with more than 500 Lebanese businessmen living in old colonial style villas here. Also, at least 800 Chinese teachers live in the government provided apartments. They mostly come to teach Chinese to Equato-Congolese students at the large University of Kisangani & other colleges. There is also a closed off neighbourhood in this commune that is home to the nation's most powerful man, the former president, Alain Esengo.

(A colonial style building in Tshopo)

-Makiso is the most densely populated borough and the city's downtown district, home to many of the city's commercial and financial institutions. The commune contains the headquarters of many major corporations, NGOs, International organisations, the United Nations, as well as a number of important administrative structures of governorship.

(The modern commune of Makiso)

-Lubunga is the most suburban commune in character of the 6 communes. Ascribed the nickname of "Pays" it supplies Kisangani with most of its agricultural crops. Many major food supplying companies own huge plantations here. Few people live here & those who are in the area are often poor & there to work on the plantations owned by companies.

(A normal morning in Lubunga)

-Kabondo is the spacious, residential commune that usually takes the lead in annually hosting some of the city's largest parades and public events mainly due to its cultural and social and ethnic diversity, an independent art scene, distinct neighbourhoods and unique architectural heritage. As a result Kabondo is known as "Pilote". In 2015, a large A-rated stadium named 'Stade de Sangana' was completed & is said to be the future site of many national celebrations.

(An exterior view of Stade de Sangana in Kabondo)


The city is a centre for television productions, radio, theatre, film, multimedia and print publishing. Kisangani's many cultural communities have given it a distinct local culture. The city's waterfront allure and nightlife has attracted residents and tourists alike. As a Central African city, Kisangani shares many cultural characteristics with the rest of the continent. It has a tradition of producing African Jazz, Nu-Rumba, African Folk, Rumba and Ndombolo music. The city has also produced much talent in the fields of visual arts, theatre, music, and dance. Some of its better known popular culture residents include Aberti Masikini, Anne-Sylvie Mouzon, Barly Baruti, Koffi Olomide and Moreno. Yet, being at the African confluence of the South and the North and West and East traditions, Kisangani has developed a unique and distinguished cultural face. Another distinctive characteristic of Kisangani culture life is to be found in the animation of its downtown, particularly during summer, prompted by cultural and social events, particularly festivals. The city's largest festival is the Cercle Boyoma Culture festival, which is the largest in the world of its kind. Other popular festivals include the Kisangani Jazz Festival, Kisangani Film Festival, Nuits d'Afrique and the Kisangani Fireworks Festival. These festivals are broadcasted all over the nation on major TV channels and attract as many as 50 million viewers annually, a huge sum of the 2015 population of Congo Equatorial (over 160 million people).


(A train on the underground line of Lina Mpa-Esengo)

20% of the population in Kisangani travel via motorcycle or bicycle, 60% by public transport, another 10% travel on foot & the last 10% by car. Due to the large amount of motorcycles in the city massive boulevards have been constructed to stop traffic or congestion from slowing trade down, as the city is becoming more & more important for Congo Equatorial's internal trade. The public transport system is made up of 8 train lines (Lina Nsambo, Lina Makiso, Lina Mpa-Esengo, Lina Talatala, Lina Mboka 1, Lina Mboka 2, Lina Kikwato-Kongo & Lina Alalaleni). 4 are overground & another 4 are underground. A citywide bus system was organised in 2008, & is controlled by local authorities. Many businessmen & women travel using the subway in Kisangani due to it's rapidity, however there are still many problems concerning delays with trains & the expensive prices of boarding luggage on them.

Cars in the city are extremely expensive & the minority of people who drive them are wealthy employees of major corporations, politicians, doctors, celebrities or wealthy teachers.


Kisangani has the one of the least crime rates in Congo Equatorial. With crime being almost unknown in the country as a whole. However, for the few problems that do occur, there 2,000 police officers in the city to maintain the peace. Some of the people in Kisangani find that the police are extremely overbearing in the sense that there is hardly any crime in the city.

Congo equatorial