Rwanda: Regional Team Starts Investigating After Congolese Soldier Fires at RDF, Killed

A team from the Extended Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM) on Saturday, March 4, visited the scene in Rubavu District where a soldier of the Congolese army (FARDC) crossed over from the DR Congo and shot at RDF soldiers manning the common border on Friday before he was shot and killed.

A soldier of the Congolese army, FARDC, crossed over from the DR Congo and shot at RDF soldiers manning the common border between Grande Barrière and Petite Barrière in Rubavu District, at around 17h35, on Friday, March 3, according to a Rwanda Defence Force statement.

The RDF soldiers returned fire, killing the FARDC soldier on the Rwandan side of the border. Several other FARDC soldiers fired at the RDF position resulting in a brief exchange of fire.

On Saturday, the EJVM along with RDF officers and local authorities visited the scene to investigate the incident. The body of the Congolese soldier was taken to the nearby Gisenyi Hospital for further checks. Congolese citizens and soldiers, on the other side of the border, were heard chanting "we are tired of the Tutsi."

The crowd on the Congolese side of the border later started throwing stones on the Rwanda side. The RDF responded by firing into the air to disperse the rowdy crowd.

In February, Rwanda reinforced its defensive and preventive mechanisms to guard against violations of the country's airspace and borders, given its legitimate security concerns triggered by DR Congo's deliberate defiance of regional peace processes.

A government statement then read: "These contingencies are ready to act to prevent any cross-border threat, proportionately to its magnitude, origin, and nature. We will not allow any spill-over into Rwanda from any armed group, and total security for our territory and our people will be ensured."

The last such incident was in mid-February, when about one section soldiers of the Congolese army entered the no-man's land between Rwanda and DR Congo and opened fire at its border post in Rusizi District, Western Province.

In the wee hours of February 15, around 12 to 14 soldiers entered the no-man's land between Rwanda and the DR Congo bordering Rusizi District in Western Province, before opening the fire at Rwanda's border. The Congolese soldiers withdrew only after the Rwandan security forces responded.

In November 2022, a gunman crossed into Rwanda from DR Congo and started shooting at the RDF guard towers in Rubavu District. He was shot dead by RDF patrol before causing any casualties.

A Sukhoi-25 fighter jet from DR Congo, on January 24, violated Rwanda's airspace - the third time such an incident occurred in three months - forcing Rwanda to take "defensive measures."

Relations between Rwanda and DR Congo have gone from bad to worse in the past two years.

Kinshasa accuses Kigali of supporting the M23 rebels' resurgence in eastern DR Congo, an accusation Kigali has denied. The latter maintains that the sustained collaboration between the Congolese army and armed groups in eastern DR Congo, especially the FDLR, is at the heart of the insecurity affecting the region.

Lately, 17 provincial members of parliament in North Kivu have asked President Felix Tshisekedi to address the issue of FDLR's presence in eastern DR Congo as part of find a lasting solution to the situation

Besides aligning itself with FDLR - a Rwandan genocidal militia formed by remnants of the perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi -Kinshasa has also continued to alienate the M23 rebels, thereby reducing the prospects for peace.

By recently referring to the FDLR terrorist group as "a movement," observers said, the Congolese minister of communication, Patrick Muyaya, officially declared the militia free from guilt, responsibility and punishment, for their role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and other atrocities they are committing in eastern DR Congo.

In an interview with Al Jazeera's UpFront programme, aired on YouTube on February 17, Muyaya described the DR Congo-based FDLR as a "movement," even as he acknowledged that the militia killed Congolese citizens and was also responsible for the murder of an Italian ambassador in February 2021.

Located in a natural resource-rich area, the FDLR has been identified as the largest illegal foreign armed group operating in eastern DR Congo.

The militia group which, as reported, controls 95% of the charcoal trade in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, and generates more than $45 million annually amasses wealth by illegally exploiting and transporting resources such as gold, timber, poaching and taxing the local population in areas it controls.

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