Already high tensions between Kigali and Kinshasa have risen sharply after Rwanda’s defence forces shot at a Congolese warplane they accuse of violating Rwandan airspace. In this Q&A, Crisis Group examines why the situation has deteriorated and outlines pathways toward de-escalation.
Three-way tussle with Burundi and DR Congo intensified as Gitega closed border with northern neighbour amid escalating rhetoric, while Rwandan army shot Congolese soldier dead.
Burundi closed border with Rwanda as both sides escalated rhetoric. Burundian govt 11 Jan announced suspending relations and closing all borders with Rwanda over Kigali’s alleged support for RED-Tabara rebels; Rwandan govt immediately labelled move “unfortunate decision” that violates principles of East African Community regional bloc, which 12 Jan called for “peaceful settlement” of dispute. Burundian President Ndayishimiye 21 Jan said Rwandans are “prisoners of bad leaders”. Kigali next day denounced “inflammatory allegations aimed at sowing division among Rwandans”, and President Kagame 23 Jan vowed to “fight” to protect Rwanda. Burundian govt same day accused Rwanda of recruiting Burundian refugees in Rwanda to join RED-Tabara, and late Jan reportedly increased number of soldiers and ruling party youth wing (Imbonerakure) policing border with Rwanda (see Burundi).
Tensions with DR Congo led to deadly border incident. Army 16 Jan announced capturing two Congolese soldiers after they crossed into Rwandan territory near Rubavu town, and shooting another dead as he tries to open fire on Rwandan forces; Congolese army next day claimed trio had crossed border “inadvertently” and said it had referred to Regional Joint Verification Mechanism for repatriation of soldier’s body and release of other two. Congolese President Tshisekedi 30 Jan reiterated claims that M23 rebels are backed by Rwanda, referred to Kigali as “aggressor” which “occupies a portion of our territory” (see DR Congo).
Rwanda has become a major player in the Central African Republic, helping the government fight insurgents, supporting state reforms and investing in numerous businesses. This engagement has rewards but also comes with risks. Bangui and Kigali should act now to minimise the latter.
This week on Hold Your Fire!, Richard Atwood speaks with Richard Moncrieff, Crisis Group’s interim Great Lakes project director, about an incident in which Rwanda's army shot at a Congolese fighter jet, raising fears that tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali could boil over.
Fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is intensifying, with Ugandan and Burundian soldiers in pursuit of rebels and Congolese insurgents on the rebound. With help from its allies, Kinshasa should step up diplomacy lest the country become a regional battleground once more.
This week on Hold Your Fire! Richard Atwood talks to Great Lakes expert Nelleke van de Walle about the escalation of violence in the eastern DR Congo, as Uganda and Burundi deploy troops to fight rebels in the area and Rwanda threatens to do the same.
President Tshisekedi’s plans for joint operations with DR Congo’s belligerent eastern neighbours against its rebels risks regional proxy warfare. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage diplomatic efforts in the region and Tshisekedi to shelve his plan for the joint operations.
Three Great Lakes states – Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda – are trading charges of subversion, each accusing another of sponsoring rebels based in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Outside powers should help the Congolese president resolve these tensions, lest a lethal multi-sided melee ensue.
Testimony by Mark L. Schneider, Senior Vice President, International Crisis Group to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Human Rights on “Examining the Role of Rwanda in the DRC Insurgency”.
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