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DRC, Rwanda trade blame over border clash

June 17, 2022

A Congolese soldier died in a skirmish with Rwandan forces on the troubled border between the two countries. Tensions are high between the neighbors as the DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting a rebel group in the region.

Congolese policemen at the border between DRC and Rwanda
The DRC-Rwanda border has been the scene of recent violenceImage: Guerchom Ndebo/AFP/Getty Images

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said Friday that one of its soldiers was killed on the border with Rwanda.

Kigali, meanwhile, said that two of its soldiers were injured in the clash.

What do we know so far?

The shootout between the sides reportedly occurred at the Petite Barriere border post in the eastern Congolese city of Goma.

Rwanda said a Congolese soldier crossed the border and began shooting at Rwanda security forces and civilians. The Rwandan troops then fired back at the Congolese soldier in self-defense, killing him.

"A Congolese soldier rushed forward, opening fire in the direction of the Rwandan border," a Congolese policeman present at the scene told AFP news agency. "A Rwandan soldier opened fire and he died on the spot. There was then an exchange of fire between us and the Rwandan security forces. Some of the civilians who were waiting to cross the border were wounded."   

"The Congolese soldier was shot dead 25 meters (27 yards) inside Rwandan territory," the Rwandan military said.  

The DRC also announced it would impose new border restrictions with Rwanda following the incident, Reuters news agency reported.   

What's behind tensions between DRC and Rwanda?

The shootout is the latest escalation of an ongoing feud between the two African nations. The DRC has accused neighboring Rwanda of backing M23 rebel fighters which are fighting Congolese troops. 

The DRC alleges that Rwanda supported the M23 group when it recently took control of the key Congolese trading town of Bunagana. The attack caused refugees to pour into neighboring Uganda

Rwanda rejects the allegations. Leadership of the M23 rebel group belongs to the same Tutsi ethnic group as Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

An archival photo of the M-23 rebels from 2012
The M23 rebels are poised to capture more territory in the eastern DRC, according to the UNImage: Jerome Delay/AP/picture alliance

A group of independent experts with the UN said Friday that the M23 rebels want to seize control of Goma in order to force the Congolese government into conceding to their political demands. The M23 group previously captured Goma in 2012 for a short period.

Meanwhile, Rwandan ties to the DRC have been strained ever since the 1990s, because many ethnic Hutu militia responsible for the 1994 genocide fled across the border and found refuge in the following years.

Other African nations are urging action to provide stabilty to the eastern DRC.

In a statement earlier this week, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called for a regional force in the DRC to be deployed "to reestablish peace." The African Union has also said it is "gravely concerned" by the heightened tensions. 

wd/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)