Tensions flare at Rwanda-Congo border as soldier killed in crossfire

By Arinda Nsheka

 In a fresh episode of escalating tensions between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, a Congolese soldier was killed and two others arrested after crossing the border and allegedly firing at Rwandan patrols. This incident raises concerns of further instability in the already volatile region.

The Rwandan Defense Force (RDF) stated that at 1:10 AM on Tuesday, three armed soldiers from the Congolese Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) crossed into Rwanda’s Rubavu district near the Congolese city of Goma. Two soldiers, identified as Sgt Asman Mupenda Termite (30) and Cpl Anyasaka Nkoi Lucien (28), were apprehended by RDF patrols assisted by local community watch. They were found in possession of an AK-47 rifle, ammunition, a protective vest, and cannabis.

According to the RDF statement, the third soldier fired at the patrol and was fatally shot. No Rwandan personnel were harmed. Investigations are ongoing.

The Congolese military confirmed the incident, acknowledging the soldiers inadvertently crossed the border during a patrol. In a statement, Spokesperson Sylvain Ekenge expressed regret for the soldier’s death and requested the repatriation of all three soldiers.

This incident comes against the backdrop of long-standing accusations by Kinshasa against Kigali of supporting the M23 rebel group in eastern Congo. The Tutsi-led M23 offensive last year displaced over a million people.

This recent border incident adds fuel to the fire of simmering tensions between the two neighbors. The porous nature of the border, combined with past incidents of border crossings and shootings, raises concerns about further escalation and potential regional instability.

Between February 2019 and February 2022, more than 15 Ugandan civilians were killed by Rwandan security forces during incidents along the shared border. These crossings, in both directions, occurred due to the porous nature of the border and resulted in tragic loss of life.