The Rwandan government said a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) army fighter jet violated its airspace on Monday, just 48 hours after a deal to defuse rising tensions between the two countries.
The Congolese government has been facing an offensive by the armed group M23 (“March 23 Movement”) in eastern DRC in recent weeks, which has reignited historic tensions with neighbouring Rwanda, which it accuses of supporting the former Tutsi rebellion.
Kigali has always disputed these claims and in return claims that the DRC is collaborating with Rwandan Hutu rebels.
The DRC expelled the Rwandan ambassador in Kinshasa on 29 October and recalled its chargé d’affaires in Kigali.
In a statement on Monday, the Rwandan government said a “Sukhoi-25 fighter jet from the Democratic Republic of Congo violated Rwandan airspace at 11:20 am (local, 8:30 am GMT) this morning and landed briefly at Rubavu airport in Western province”.
“No military action was taken by Rwanda in response, and the plane returned to the DRC. The Rwandan authorities protested against this provocation to the DRC government, which acknowledged the incident,” the text added.
On Saturday, the foreign ministers of the two countries meeting in Angola announced their commitment to “maintain dialogue” and to define “a timetable to accelerate the implementation of the roadmap” signed in July and providing for a cessation of hostilities.
Relations between Rwanda and the DRC are as conflictual as they are historic, mired for nearly 30 years in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide.
The resurgence of the M23 in the east of the DRC since the end of 2021 has rekindled tension between the two neighbours.
While Kigali denies any support to the M23, a report by independent experts mandated by the UN Security Council had detailed in August the involvement of Rwanda, “unilaterally or jointly with the M23 fighters” in eastern Congo.
Washington reiterated last week its “concerns about Rwanda’s support for M23”.
Kenya announced on Wednesday the deployment of troops as part of a joint force of the East African Community (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Uganda and DRC) agreed in April to help restore stability in the DRC.
According to the UN, fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 has displaced some 50,000 people since 20 October.