Officials from Rwanda and DR Congo have said it is time to end ‘mere talk’ and start concrete action on a joint exploitation of methane gas deposits in Lake Kivu, with an aim of producing energy for the people of both countries.

Officials of Rwanda & DR Congo in a meeting in Goma - DRC

The agreement for joint exploitation of methane gas in Lake Kivu dates back to 1975 when the two countries committed to work together to generate energy from the lake, but 40 years later, there is no tangible impact.

While the lake presents the potential of generating over 700 megawatts of methane gas, according to studies, only 26 megawatts have been extracted through the Kivuwatt project on the Rwandan side.

On 12th August 2016, President Paul Kagame and his Congolese counterpart, Joseph Kabila, met in Rubavu, Rwanda, and declared their willingness to develop a joint project for the production of electricity from methane gas in Lake Kivu, among other initiatives and announced through a final communiqué from the meeting that both Governments would rapidly proceed with the implementation of the project

Following the meeting, a joint technical committee was set up to discuss how the commitment of government leaders should be implemented.

On Thursday, 10th November 2016, officials from the two countries met in the Congolese town of Goma where they discussed the way forward. 

Hon. Dr. Vincent Biruta, the Minister for Natural Resources who led the Rwandan delegation to Goma, said Lake Kivu is endowed with a lot of shared resources that can be jointly exploited for the benefit of the people in both countries.

Group photo after the ministerial meeting in Goma - DRC

"There are resources we need to exploit together for the common development of our countries, there are agreements signed long ago under which both countries committed to work together on joint projects but some have derailed while others are in progress. Rwanda has made a breakthrough in exploiting methane gas; we have also started exploration for oil in the area. The resources are trans-border so we can work faster and efficiently together,” said Biruta.

Jean Bosco Mugiraneza, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Energy Group (REG) and Chairperson of joint technical committee - Rwanda, said there are enough energy resources in the lake to significantly make a difference for the people of both countries.

“Kivuwatt Methane Gas to Power Plant  is generating electricity on the Rwandan side, and we are now looking at ways the second phase (Kivuwatt II project) can be pursued jointly,” said Mugiraneza, adding that research shows that up to 700 megawatts can be extracted from Lake Kivu for a period of at least 50 years. 

Speaking during the meeting, Aimé Ngoi Mukena Lusa Desiré, the Congolese Minister of Hydrocarbons, also emphasized the need to work together.

“We have talked and talked about cooperation in exploiting the resources in the Kivu area long enough; it is time to implement,” Ngoi said.

“The will of our Heads of State must prevail. Today, we are ready to start from what is there, Rwanda has started and if they have advanced, we are ready to catch up as they can also catch up on what we started.”

He added “other than energy; the two countries should also work on other projects, mainly roads’’.

Effective exploration of methane gas in Lake Kivu is expected to boost electricity generation in both Rwanda and DR Congo and accelerate economic growth in both countries.

The electricity access countrywide in Rwanda stands today at 27 per cent while DR Congo stands at about 20 per cent, according to officials    

Group photo: Joint Technical Committee Rwanda and DR Congo in a meeting in Rubavu, Rwanda

Kivuwatt methane gas to power barge (26MW)



1.   Introduction

In the last few days, in late August 2016, the waters of the shore of Lake Kivu have changed its colour (Figure 1 ), but for reasons completely different from what happened in April 2016 (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Pictures published by on 31st August 2016, about Lake Kivu colour on 30th August 2016.

2.   Reminder about whitening of Lake Kivu

As reported previously by different local media houses, whitening occurs when a lake with hard water faces specific weather conditions. In April 2016, high air temperature, high humidity and high irradiance led to stratification of the oxygenated Lake water layer i.e the Mixolimnion which was really shallow (~28 m deep), with high water temperature (25.5O) and pH above 9.2. In those conditions, the carbonates, which are usually dissolved in the lake, were oversaturated and precipitated, calcium ions precipitated in the form of calcite particles. As these particles are white, it gave a milky or turquoise appearance to the lake’s water, when observed from near, observed from far, the lake seemed to be blue/green because of green algae (Cyanobacteria) that have multiplied in the lake. They are actually characteristic of the rainy season in many lakes.  

Figure 2:  whitening of Lake Kivu on 13th April 2016, photo by Lake Kivu Monitoring Programme.

3.   Colour change observed late August 2016

The change of the colour on the shore of Lake Kivu, in Rubavu, observed by the end of August 2016, is a normal phenomenon due to high wind speed. In fact, during dry season, the lake is beaten by strong winds blowing toward the north of the Lake (Gisenyi). Normally, the speed of wind is low in morning hours and you cannot see change of colour, then over the day, the wind increases with time (Figure 3) and becomes high in late hours of morning and in the afternoon.

These winds have seasonal and daily impacts on the lake:

Ø Seasonal impacts of winds include, but are not limited to mixing of the oxygenated waters (surface layer) and uptake of deep nutrients and other dissolved matters from deep waters into the surface layer.

Ø Daily impacts, which are of concern to explain the present shore colouring of the lake, include presence of waves on the surface water and maintain of the plume of inflowing rivers along the shore. The wind indeed prevents the plume to disperse into the lake and force it to spread along the shore.

The daily impact is actually happened recently, with the highly charged in suspended matters plume of the Sebeya River (as it often occurs). Normally, winds on Lake Kivu are predominantly blowing from the South (Figure 4). As South wind speed increases during the day, we thus observe, along the shore of Lake Kivu, a strip of clearly different colour of the water corresponding to the colour of the water of Sebeya River in the process of mixing with water of Lake Kivu. This strip is already slightly seen on the picture taken at 9:00 on 31st August 2016 (Figure 5c), but it was not there earlier in the morning (Figure 5a&b). Note that 


Figure 3: Maximum hourly wind speed (m/s) from  29th to 31st August 2016. Wind speed is the highest around 11:00 and is blowing from the south, toward the north (not shown on the figure).


Figure 4: Wind direction for August 2016, (Orientation: blowing from)

Figure 5: Pictures of the shore of Lake Kivu at7:00(a. &b.) and at 9:00 in the morning (c.), taken by LKMP on 31st August 2016.

On the other hand (Figure 6), data collected on the Lake on 31st August 2016 shows that stratification is deep in the biozone (~50 m depth), as expected during dry season; pH was 9.16. In addition, all other parameters measured indicated that the Lake was stable.

Figure 6: Full range profiles taken in the Northern basin of Lake Kivu with the CTM 725. – 31st August 2016. Note the stratification of the biozone at 50 m depth.



Lake Kivu is an exceptional lake in an exceptional natural and socio economic context. The lake is important for the livelihoods of more than two million people as a source of drinking water, for fisheries and transportation. For more reading, please click here

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