Rwanda has fired at a Congolese military aircraft it alleges violated its airspace in a new escalation of tensions between the central African neighbors.
A Rwandan government statement said, “defensive measures” were taken against a Sukhoi-25 from Congo on Tuesday evening, and it urged Congo to “stop this aggression.” Rwanda’s state broadcaster shared unverified video of what appeared to be a projectile fired at an aircraft.
Congo’s government in a statement asserted that the Rwandan attack on its fighter plane occurred in Congolese airspace near the city of Goma’s international airport and that the plane had not entered Rwandan airspace.
It said the plane landed without major damage.
Congo considers this “a deliberate act of aggression that equals an act of war” with the goal of sabotaging regional peace efforts, the statement added.
The incident occurred a week before Pope Francis arrives in Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, for a three-day visit to highlight the toll that decades of conflict have taken on the country, particularly eastern Congo, a volatile region rich in minerals critical to much of the world’s technology.
Congo for months has accused Rwanda of supporting a rebel group called M23, one of dozens that’s fighting in eastern Congo.
The Rwandan government has called accusations that it is supporting M23 “wrong” and part of a “tired old blame game” undermining efforts by regional leaders to find a lasting peace, “to which Rwanda is fully committed.”
At a November 23 summit in Angola, which included Congo’s president and Rwanda’s foreign minister, regional leaders called for a cease-fire in eastern Congo to be followed by a withdrawal of rebels from major towns under M23 control.
The armed group said it would withdraw from some of the occupied territories before January 15, but some areas remain under its control.
Writing by Tersoo Nicholas