Troops gather on DRC/Rwanda border after clashes


As tensions ratchet up on the DRC/Rwanda border the senior UN man in the DRC has called for calm and the re-establishment of security.

Both countries have deployed more troops to the shared border after gunfire broke out for the second day this week ending months of relative calm in the volatile region.

Congolese and Rwandan officials each accused the other’s armies of mounting cross-border raids on Wednesday that prompted heavy fire between the two forces. Gunfire was reported early on Thursday but had ceased by 0800 local time.

Martin Kobler, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative and head of MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC, called for a de-escalation of tensions and a halt to any further acts of violence.
“I appeal for calm from both sides and urge them to take immediate steps to re-establish security in the border area,” Kobler said in a statement, in which he also deplored the loss of life during the clashes.

Kinshasa blamed Rwandan forces for provoking Wednesday’s clashes by seizing and later killing a Congolese soldier.

Rwanda said its army killed five Congolese troops after they crossed the border and attacked Rwandan units, although Congo insists it lost only one soldier.

A Reuters cameraman on the Rwandan side of the border on Thursday saw five bodies lying in a beanfield wearing uniforms with the Congolese flag.
“They have surely taken some bodies, perhaps villagers, and put Congolese army uniforms on them,” said Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende.

Residents said the Congolese soldiers were killed after they tried to steal cows, adding border incursions were frequent.

A regional inspection team was visible on the Rwandan side of the frontier, surrounded by Rwandan troops, as part of an investigation into the cause of the flare-up.

Rwandan troops have backed Congolese rebels during two wars in Congo since 1996 before Rwandan troops officially withdrew in 2003. Since then, Kinshasa and UN experts have repeatedly accused Kigali of backing Congolese rebels.

Rwanda denies the charges and says Congo is harbouring elements of the FDLR Hutu militia that took part in the 1994 genocide, killing at least 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Kobler called on the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM) to conduct a thorough investigation into the circumstances of the incident. The mechanism is a technical body, comprising military experts from both DRC and Rwanda, and supported by the African Union and the UN, to address DRC/Rwanda border security issues, among other tasks.
“I also encourage both sides to re-engage on resolving border demarcation issues through peaceful means,” Kobler said adding MONUSCO continues to stand ready to support any initiative to restore stability in the area.