The tension between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda worsened on Friday, June 17, when clashes erupted in East Goma between the two countries’ security forces.
At least one soldier of the Democratic Republic of Congo national army soldier, FARDC, and two Rwandan police officers died during the clashes.
“A DR Congo soldier took matters into his hands by shooting in the direction of the Rwanda border. A Rwandan soldier shot at him, and he died on the spot,” revealed a DR Congo police officer who opted for anonymity and was present at the scene.
“There was an exchange of fire between us and the security forces of Rwanda. As a result, persons were wounded among the civilians who wanted to cross the border.”
The Rwandan army said in a statement issued after the incident, “A Congolese soldier shot at persons who were crossing the border. He wounded two Rwandan policemen, and in response, he was shot dead”.
The tension between DR Congo and Rwanda has risen with the resurgence of the M23 movement, which has been accused of killing at least 26 DR Congo soldiers in January this year in an attack, according to the Kivu Security Barometer (KSB).
The Kinshasa authorities have since then been accusing the Rwandan government of supporting the predominantly Tutsi M23 rebels.
But the Rwandan authorities have consistently debunked all the allegations.
“This is an incident, just like many others, happening at the border. But, visibly, the Congolese soldier killed was drunk,” said Col. Francois Kabeya, the police mayor of Goma, capital of North Kivu province.
“We consider this as just an incident that happened due to the hatred against Rwandans and the Tutsis of DR Congo,” declared the Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vincent Biruta.
However, Christophe Lutundula, the DR Congo Minister of Foreign Affairs, said the incident was unfortunate, asking that the two countries work together “to de-escalate the situation”.
The corpse of the dead soldier has been repatriated to DR Congo.
Reacting to the high tension between the two countries, France has “firmly condemned the violence of armed groups, notably the recent offensives by M23 and the shots which touched Rwandan territory”.
Observers of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), which groups countries of the region, briefly discussed with officials from DR Congo and Rwanda at the scene of the incident at the border before continuing discussions on the Rwandan side.
At the same time, DR Congo police continued to contain more than 100 protesters trying to get to the “Petite Barriere” scene of the incident, shouting slogans hostile to President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and calling for the expulsion of Rwandans from Congo.
In Bukavu, in the neighbouring province of South Kivu, hundreds of protesters marched against Rwanda, calling for the expulsion of all Rwandans from DR Congo.
In a statement, the chief of the Congolese police indicated having handed over to the judicial authorities the commissioner of police who allowed the population and police officers to brutalise a lieutenant colonel of the FARDC suspected of being a Rwandophone.
Faced with the escalating anti-Rwanda hate speech, France has called for an end “to hate speech targeting communities and individuals”.
The governor of South Kivu has indicated that “on instructions from the high hierarchy of the country, and account of the security situation, all border posts with Rwanda will from “Friday, June 17 be closed at 15 hours, local time”.
On Monday, June 13, 2022, M23 occupied Bunagana, an important commercial centre at the border with Uganda, with the support of Rwandan forces, according to Congolese authorities.
Relations between DR Congo and Rwanda have been tense since 1994, the year of the Rwanda genocide, which, according to the United Nations, resulted in the killing of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus by the Rwandan armed forces and extremist Hutu militias of the Interahamwe.
The M23 is a Tutsi-dominated rebel group defeated by the Kinshasa government in 2013 but took up arms again in 2021, accusing the Congolese authorities of not respecting the terms of an accord for the demobilisation and reinsertion of its combatants.
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