GOMA (Reuters) – Rwandan police on Friday shot dead a Congolese soldier who crossed the border and fired at border security, Rwanda’s army said, near an area where Congo’s army is battling rebels it accuses Rwanda of backing.
A diplomatic crisis has broken out between the Central African neighbours as the M23 rebels, whose leadership hails from the same Tutsi ethnic group as Rwanda President Paul Kagame, have gained ground in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwanda denies Congo’s allegations that it supports the group and has sent troops into eastern Congo.
As fighting picked back up between the M23 and Congo’s army on Friday, a Congolese military aircraft went down in the countryside, an army source and M23 spokesman Willy Ngoma told Reuters, without providing further details.
The incident at the border took place earlier on Friday when a Congolese soldier crossed into Rwanda from the Congolese city of Goma and fired an AK-47 rifle at Rwandan security personnel and civilians, the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) said.
Two Rwandan police officers were injured before an officer on duty fired back at the soldier, who was killed 25 metres inside Rwanda, an RDF statement said.
Congo’s government said it was monitoring the situation but did not provide details about the incident.
In Goma, which lies about 50 km (35 miles) southwest of the main fighting, hundreds on foot and motorcyle trailed the ambulance carrying the soldier’s body while chanting “hero, hero”, videos posted on social media showed.
Some shouted anti-Tutsi slogans and called Kagame an “assassin”.
Anti-Rwandan sentiment in Congo is widespread, a legacy of Rwanda’s two invasions of eastern Congo in the 1990s and continuing influence in the region. Rwanda says its actions have targeted ethnic Hutu militiamen responsible for the 1994 genocide of more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The M23 is waging its most sustained offensive since capturing swathes of territory in eastern Congo in 2012-2013.
The group captured the town of Bunagana, on the border with Uganda, on Monday and made further gains on Friday, taking Tshengerero to the east, it said in a statement. The head of a local civil society group and a Congolese officer confirmed Tshengerero’s capture.
The M23 says it is defending itself against an alliance of Congo’s army and a Hutu militia, whose leaders were involved in the 1994 genocide. Congo denies working with the militia.
In a statement, Congo’s government called on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to pressure Rwanda to withdraw its troops from Congo ahead of a summit of the Commonwealth, which Kigali will host next week.
It also welcomed a Kenyan proposal to deploy a joint East African military force to eastern Congo, but said it would not accept Rwandan participation.
(Reporting by Djaffar Sabiti in Goma and Stanis Bujakera in Kinshasa; Additional reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana in Kigali; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by James Macharia Chege, William Maclean)