Rwanda and DRC armies clash as tensions escalate in the region

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  • The DRC and Rwanda gave conflicting statements regarding a DRC fighter jet coming under fire.
  • Kenyatta spoke out against the fighting between DRC and Rwandan forces.
  • Tshisekedi dodged a meeting with Kagame in Qatar.

There was a clash between Rwandan forces and the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo in Kitchanga on Tuesday morning.

Several hours earlier, Rwandan forces shot at a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) fighter jet, which they claimed had violated Rwandan airspace.

This is the closest yet to a fully-fledged war between the neighbouring countries, which have seen tensions rise as they trade accusations.

On Monday, President Paul Kagame and his DRC counterpart, Felix Tshisekedi, were due to meet in Doha, Qatar, under a United States-brokered dialogue. 

However, Tshisekedi failed to arrive, and the meeting was cancelled.

The DRC, in a statement, said Rwandan forces followed up the shooting of a Sukhoi-25 fighter jet, which they claimed had not violated Rwandan airspace, by deploying an army unit to Kitchanga.

The DRC claims to have repelled the Rwandans, who are still plotting more operations.

"This attack is in addition to the offensive launched this morning by the Rwandan army towards Kitchanga and immediately repelled by the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo.

"In the meantime, columns of Rwandan army soldiers have been observed coming from Rwanda to reinforce the positions in Kibumba and Bwito in anticipation of other criminal actions," DRC said.

Former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, the East African Community (EAC) peace process facilitator in the conflict, noted with concern the gunfire exchange between Rwanda and DRC.

"Following the break-out of serious fighting in the DRC North Kivu region, the facilitator of the EAC peace process in Eastern DRC has expressed serious concern for the targeted killings of civilians by armed groups and thousands of internally displaced people," he said.

Fighter jet attack

Kinshasa rejected reports by Rwanda that it shot at a DRC fighter jet because it had violated its airspace.

In a statement late on Tuesday, Rwanda said a Sukhoi-25 fighter jet "from the DR Congo violated its airspace for the third time".

It said "defensive measures were taken", while asking the DRC to stop this provocation.

Responding in similar currency, the DRC said it "strongly condemns and denounces the attack against one of its Sukhoi-25 aircraft by the Rwandan army".

But, according to the DRC, the aircraft was attacked as it landed on the runway of Goma International Airport and was in no way in violation of Rwandan airspace.

The DRC said in a statement:

The Rwandan fire was directed at a Congolese aircraft flying inside Congolese territory. It did not fly over Rwandan airspace.

There have been similar incidents in the past. Twice last year, DRC fighter aircraft violated Rwandan airspace.

In one of the incidents, Rwanda said it was "a dangerous and serious provocation". The DRC admitted to violating its neighbour's airspace, but didn't offer an apology, only saying it was a mistaken landing.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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