This article addresses rural–urban transformations in the war-torn Kivu provinces. The spectacular growth and development processes of fast-expanding boomtowns in Kivu’s rural areas serve as an entry point to investigate the relationship between conflict, displacement, urbanisation and development in Eastern D.R. Congo.

Based on qualitative research on urban expansion in different smaller towns in North and South Kivu, this article analyses the characteristics of these ‘new’ urban spaces. It demonstrates that boomtowns represent centres of opportunities as well as contestation, and that they play an important role in the economic dynamics of development as well as in the political dynamics of stability and conflict.