DRC – Rwanda Tensions: Rwandan Troops Heading Towards Congo Border

Rwandan troops are heading towards the western border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, raising the prospect of another war in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
A trailer carrying a tank leaves the Rwandan capital Kigali en route to the border town of Gisenyi, August 30, 2013.
A trailer carrying a tank leaves the Rwandan capital Kigali en route to the border town of Gisenyi, August 30, 2013.

On Friday, a large number of people in the Rwandan capital Kigali watched a military convoy including troops, tanks and trucks loaded with artillery leaving for the border, The Associated Press reported.

According to reports, the Rwandan army troops are headed to Gisenyi, which borders the city of Goma in eastern Congo.

Congo’s adventurous neighbor is reportedly planning to launch a military offensive against a country with which it fought two wars in the past two decades.

Earlier in the day, Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo said his country would defend its borders after rockets landed in Rwandan territory.

On Thursday, Rwanda accused the Congolese army, the FARDC, of firing bombs and rockets into its territory and said such “provocation” will not be tolerated.

However, the UN mission in Congo, known as MONUSCO, said late on Thursday that it had seen only M23 rebels firing artillery into Rwanda.

“MONUSCO has not witnessed any shelling by the FARDC into Rwanda. These are areas where FARDC are not present,” said deputy UN peacekeeping chief Edmond Mulet.

Also on Thursday, the United Nations said that Rwandan military officers are fueling deadly violence in eastern Congo.

The UN said it had “consistent and credible reports” of Rwandan troops entering Congo to back M23 rebels.

The UN and Kinshasa have repeatedly accused Rwanda of helping the rebels in Congo. Rwanda has always denied the charges that it is backing the M23, but Kigali has never publicly condemned the militia, which occupied the city of Goma in eastern Congo for 10 days last November.

The M23 rebels and several other armed groups are active in the eastern Congo and are fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.

Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but about 500,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.

Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.

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