Thursday 26 April 2018

DR Congo says 6 troops killed rebuffing Rwanda incursion

DR Congo says 6 troops killed rebuffing Rwanda incursion
(AFP (eng) 02/16/18)

Six soldiers died in fighting to repel an incursion by Rwandan troops in eastern DR Congo this week, the army announced on Friday.

The Congolese army recorded "a total of six dead and four wounded, two of them with serious injuries," General Bruno Mandevu told a press conference.

On Tuesday, heavy fighting broke out "on Congolese soil", close to the Rwandan border at the foot of Mount Mikeno in North Kivu province, the army said.

Congolese army patrols exchanged fire with Rwandan army positions some 100 metres (yards) inside DR Congo before their respective governments spoke and intervened, a military spokesman said.

Mandevu, who is in charge of an operation against Rwandan rebels in the area, said the casualties occurred "after we had obeyed the order from Kinshasa to cease fire."

"The Rwandan soldiers kept firing," he said.

He said the Rwandans "had taken up three positions in Congolese territory and dug foxholes, which means they had come to wage war."

The two neighbours have had a fractious relationship since the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Some of those accused of involvement in the killings of an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda set up militias in eastern DR Congo.

- Border confusion? -

Rwanda has been accused of backing the M23, a mainly ethnic Tutsi rebel group that emerged during that period.

The militia rebelled against Kinshasa in 2012, saying it had not respected the terms of a 2009 peace accord, but it was defeated a year later when hundreds of its fighters fled the country.

The Congolese army initially thought it was fighting ex-M23 militia members, before realising it was the Rwandan army, a spokesman said.

DR Congo's huge eastern region has long been wracked by violence, but fighting between government soldiers and militia groups, as well as inter-ethnic clashes, increased significantly in 2017.

The operation led by Mandevu, called Sokola 2, is aimed at rooting out Rwandan Hutu rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a group set up in 2000 to oppose the post-genocide leader, Paul Kagame.

Investigators based in Goma, the capital of North Kivu, have opened a probe to determine whether this week's flareup was caused by confusion over the demarcation of the border between the two countries.

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