Rwanda shoots at DRC Congo military jet over what it claimed as an alleged airspace violation.
The Rwandan government claimed that a military fighter plane from the DRC violated its airspace on Tuesday as tensions between the two neighbors over the volatile east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo rise.
Kinshasa denied that one of its aircraft had flown over Rwanda and denounced Kigali for what it called an “act of war” in its “attack” on the flight.
Relations between the neighbors are already tense as the DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebel group, which has recently conquered large portions of Congolese territory.
However, Kigali denies the allegations, which are backed by UN experts, the United States, France, and Belgium.
In turn, it accuses Kinshasa of colluding with the FDLR — a former Rwandan Hutu rebel group based in the DRC.
“A Sukhoi-25 from DR Congo violated Rwanda airspace for the third time,” over Rubavu district, near Goma, Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo said in a statement.
“Defensive measures were taken,” she said, adding: “Rwanda asks the DRC to stop the aggression.”
The two previous cases were reported in November and December and saw protests from Kigali.
AFP journalists in the eastern DRC city of Goma heard a loud explosion followed by two shots as the Congolese aircraft flew over on Tuesday afternoon.
A light was visible in social media video of the fighter, which was landing at Goma airport.
The fighter plane was “attacked while coming into land at Goma airport,” according to a DRC government statement.
“Rwandan shots were directed at a Congolese aircraft flying inside Congolese territory. It did not fly over Rwandan airspace. The plane landed without major material damage,” added the statement.
Kinshasa said it considered the incident a “deliberate act of aggression” aimed at sabotaging peace efforts in the east.
The statement said the government “reserves the legitimate right to defend its national territory”.
The fighting between Congolese troops and the M23, which has made advances towards Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, has prompted the East African Community (EAC) bloc to deploy a joint regional force to quell the violence.
Rwanda last week accused the DRC of abandoning a deal aimed at restoring peace.
Talks between the DRC and Rwanda in the Angolan capital Luanda unlocked a truce agreement in November.
But last week, the neighbours traded blame for continued fighting.