The Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) information minister has criticized neighboring Rwanda saying it deliberately provoked and undermined his government’s efforts to improve security and stabilize the country following clashes at the border between Rwandan forces and the Congolese national army, the FARDC.
Lambert Mende also called on the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR), a regional bloc, to launch an investigation into the circumstances that led to the clashes involving soldiers from the two countries.
“We are used to these games from our neighbors, whenever we are trying to solve this [security] problem. Now, we are trying to disarm this FDLR [the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda], you must see such games played from the other side of the border, just to jeopardize and stop the,” said Mende. “It’s as if somebody needs this FDLR to remain in our country so that they have the pretext to be coming in whenever they want” he said.
But, on the social media platform, Twitter, Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s foreign minister said the DRC government should take care not to cultivate unnecessary provocations and should stop its soldiers from repeatedly crossing into the Rwandan villages.
“Rwanda has put up for several months with behavior from DRC unbecoming of leadership, desirous of peace,” wrote Mushikiwabo on her Twitter feed.
Mende says the DRC government has evidence that shows that Rwanda is to blame for the clashes. He says Rwandan forces abducted and executed an FARDC soldier, which he says led to the clashes.
“According to clear evidence we have had, it seems like a group of elements of Rwanda Defense Force crossed our border and captured a corporal, brought him to Rwanda, [to] the other side of the border and this brought his friends to fire to protect their position and protect our border,” said Mende. “That is the first clash that occurred early in the morning. By 10 this morning, they took this corporal, and killed him while his friends on the Congo side of the border were witnessing. This provoked the second clash. So, if we are talking of provocation, it is really a deliberate provocation from Rwandan forces,” he said.
Mende denied FARDC forces crossed into Rwandan territory despite Ms. Mushikiwabo’s statement that urged Congo to prevent its soldiers from crossing into Rwandan villages.
“I can confirm that no soldier [from the] Congolese army crossed the border. But, this morning, soldiers from Rwanda crossed our border and came into Congo,” said Mende.
Some analysts say the clashes could further strain relations between the two countries.
Mende says he is hopeful a joint task force from the regional bloc could help ease tension between the two neighboring countries.