Rwanda fires at DR Congo military jet as it lands in Goma

By PATRICK ILUNGA

The tension between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo went a notch higher on Tuesday after Kigali shot at Kinshasa’s military jet as it approached landing in Goma.

But while the exact airspace in which it was shot at was unspecified, Rwanda said it had taken “defensive measures” against what it said was Congolese aggression.

“At 5:03pm, a Sukhoi-25 from the DRC violated Rwandan airspace for the third time,” said a brief statement from the Rwanda Defence Forces headquarters.

A video of a missile being fired at the plane was shared on social media. The Sukhoi-25, however, managed to land at Goma airport in North Kivu, eastern DRC. The Democratic Republic of Congo then claimed that the plane was “attacked as it began its landing on the runway of Goma International Airport”.

“The Rwandan fire was directed at a Congolese aircraft flying inside Congolese territory. It did not fly over Rwandan airspace in any way,” the statement from DRC said.

Peace process

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Kinshasa termed the firing of the missile “a deliberate action that amounts to an act of war whose objective is to sabotage the ongoing efforts in the implementation of the actions agreed upon in the framework of the peace process”.

Kinshasa was referring to the Luanda mini-summit of regional leaders whose aim is to seek a solution between the escalating tensions. Both countries accuse one another of fanning rebel movements against authorities in each other’s territories.

At the summit in November, the DRC and Rwanda committed to seeking peace.

The withdrawal of the M23 rebels from all occupied areas has not taken place, with the DRC, the US and some European nations claiming the fighters are being supported by Rwanda. War between the rebels and the Congolese army has resumed with new fighting, with each accusing the other of launching attacks.

On Monday, the M23 said in a press release that the Congolese army was attacking its positions.

“We do not understand how the Kinshasa government chose the option of war instead of a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” the M23 Political Spokesperson Laurence Kanyuka said in a press release.

Accusations

At the same time, the Congolese government accuses the M23 and the Rwandan army of having “triggered the offensive in Kitchanga” in North Kivu. The Congolese government says it has “observed Rwandan army columns coming from Rwanda to reinforce its positions in Kibumba and Bwito”, also in North Kivu.

The DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23 and of preparing for “other criminal actions”. The two countries accuse each other of sabotaging the peace process and the East African region’s efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. The mistrust between Rwanda and the DRC, against the background of the M23 war, seems to be at its height. According to Constant Ndima, the military governor of North Kivu, “all signals for war are visible”.

In its communiqué of 23 January, the M23 accused the DRC government of having made “a declaration of war”, referring to the communiqué of Deputy Prime Minister in charge of Foreign Affairs Christophe Lutundula of 17 January, in which Lutundula stated that the DRC “takes note” of the fact that “Rwanda has refused to stop backing the M23”. The Congolese minister had promised that the DRC “will assume all its responsibilities and does not intend to weaken”.

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