Following the recent events in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in which Rwandan backed militia group M23 renewed their conflict, the two nations seem again on the precipice of war. M23 operations in the area have increased in the last two months attempting to take control of the Tutsi regions in North Kivu. For our full detailed report on this conflict and the civil war in Kivu, see here.
The newest escalation of violence between the two countries comes as a soldier from the DRC was shot and killed by Rwandan police after crossing the border and firing upon individuals. From what seems to have begun as an altercation between a Congolese soldier and a Rwandan civilian escalated into violence. The civilian has been accused of either being a member of M23 or a sympathizer, which led to the actions of the DRC soldier. After the initial altercation the soldier crossed the border into Rwanda and fired upon a border crossing with an automatic weapon. The damage he caused is unclear, as Rwandan sources claim he only injured two security officers, while other reports have cited that multiple civilians were injured, two police officers were killed, while all claim the gunman was killed as well.
In Rwanda the response has been limited, both refuting the claims of their backing of M23 but also lessening the potential importance of the shooting. During an unrelated conference the spokesperson of the Rwandan government stated that this incident was isolated, and that Rwandans should not be worried about their safety in the future.
Their refusal to either admit or acknowledge their impact on the ongoing conflict in the Congo has left the international community attempting to put pressure on Rwandan President Kagame. These pressures have come from both countries who have supported the regime in the past including the United States and the United Kingdom as well as official statements from the United Nations Security Council.
In response to this attack massive anti-Rwandan protests broke out all over North Kivu leading to riots and the looting of Rwandan owned businesses. The body of the killed solider was returned into Goma, the capital of North Kivu, and was met with a huge crowd. People began to gather and follow the ambulance and according to Reuters the crowd was chanting “hero,” with signs displaying that Rwandan president Kagame was an “assassin.” The Congolese government itself has presented Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom with statements regarding the ongoing conflict with the hope that they will pressure Rwanda to end their incursions into Kivu. The UK has had influence over Rwanda along with the United States in the previous decades due to their assistance in ending the genocide that took place in the 1990s, and since then has supported the Kagame regime. Whether or not they wield enough influence in the region to end hostilities is unclear, but it seems rather unlikely that they will be able to exert enough pressure directly on the government to make any meaningful change.
Kenya has offered assistance to restabilize the eastern Congo in the form of the East Africa Regional Force. This is under the direction of the East African Community that acts as a mutual development group similar to the European Union comprising Kenya, the DRC, and Rwanda among others. The intention is to try keep a close cooperation between nations in the region and attempt to alleviate flareups of violence between local communities. While Rwanda does remain a member of this organization Kenya’s statement made it clear that any forces deployed will act in “support of DRC security forces.”