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 supporting the group. A Congolese soldier armed with an AK-47 rifle crossed into Rwanda via the Petite Barriere border post in Goma and fired at Rwandan security personnel and civilians, the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) said in a statement.
Two Rwandan police officers were injured before an officer on duty fired back at the soldier, who was killed 25 metres inside Rwanda, the RDF said. Congo’s government said it was monitoring the situation but did not provide details about the incident. In Goma, 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 United Nations this week warned against rising hate speech in the context of the M23’s military campaign, which is its most sustained offensive since capturing vast 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, Jean-Baptiste Twizere, and a Congolese military commander, who asked not to be named, 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.