Rwanda-DR Congo tension: Shooting of plane an ‘act of war’

Image source, Getty Images

DR Congo has declared Rwanda’s shooting of one of its fighter jets an “act of war”, amid mounting tensions.

Rwanda’s government said it took “defensive measures” against a plane that had violated its airspace – a claim denied by DR Congo.

This is a major escalation following months of conflict in eastern DR Congo, which has forced some 400,000 people to flee their homes.

DR Congo, the US and UN experts accuse Rwanda of backing the M23 rebel group.

Rwanda has denied this and blames the Congolese government for the conflict.

In the 1990s, Rwanda twice sent troops into its much larger neighbour, sparking a huge conflict involving at least nine countries that led to the death of millions of people.

Several East African countries have sent troops to DR Congo to help fight the M23 rebels, while also trying to seek a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Images shared on social media, which have not yet been verified by the BBC, show a Sukhoi-25 aircraft being shot at while flying at a low altitude between the towns of Goma in DR Congo and Gisenyi in Rwanda, which straddle their common border.

Other images show water being used to put out a fire on the plane’s right wing after it landed at Goma airport. DR Congo says the plane suffered no “major material damage”.

In a statement DR Congo’s government accused Rwanda of “sabotaging” the implementation of a recent peace agreement between the two countries.

The Information Ministry went on to say that DR Congo “reserves the right to defend its national territory and will not be threatened”.

“The government considers this umpteenth attack by Rwanda as a deliberate action”, the ministry said.

However, Rwanda said this was the third incident involving a Congolese fighter jet on its airspace and asked its neighbour “to stop this aggression”.

Last November, another Congolese Sukhoi-25 jet briefly landed at Gisenyi airport in Rwanda. Kinshasa said the fighter jet had “mistakenly landed” there.

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