September 16, 2013

Tensions Escalate As DRC Accuses Rwanda of Kidnapping Soldier

The military in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has accused Rwandan forces of ‘kidnapping’ one of its officers in the Congolese city of Goma.
Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldiers deployed near Goma on September 4, 2013.
Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldiers deployed near Goma on September 4, 2013.

According to Olivier Hamuli, a spokesman for the Congolese army in the North-Kivu province, the incident happened on Sunday, when “three Rwandan police pounced on” Sergeant Mulanga Kusakala as “he was walking in the neutral zone and dragged him to the Rwandan side.”

“It’s a kidnapping… He was in the neutral zone, not in Rwanda,” Hamuli noted, adding that Kusakala “was returning from a visit to his family.”
However, the Rwandan officials said they had arrested a soldier who was “heavily armed” in their territory.

The Rwandan military also said in a statement that the soldier had been engaged in suspicious activities in the town of Rubavu that is separated from the troubled city of Goma by the border between the two countries.

The development comes at a time of mounting tensions between Congo and Rwanda over an insurgency by March 23 movement (M23) rebels in and around Goma.

Congolese troops and UN peacekeepers have been fighting for over a year to crush M23 rebels’ rebellion. The fighters defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the military.

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.

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

The M23 rebels and several other armed groups are active in eastern Congo and are fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources.

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