The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has strongly condemned and denounced the attack on its fighter plane by the Rwandan army in Congolese airspace.
“We strongly condemn and denounce the attack against one of our Sukhoi-25 aircraft by the Rwandan army, this January 24, 2023, around 5:00 p.m. in Goma, capital of the province of North Kivu,” said Kinshasa on Tuesday, January 24, 2023.
According to the statement, the fighter plane was attacked as it began to land on the runway at Goma International Airport.
“The Rwandan fire was directed at a Congolese aircraft flying inside Congolese territory. It never flew over Rwandan airspace. The aircraft landed without major material damage.”
Kinshasa said the attack was in addition to the offensive launched earlier in the day by the Rwandan army towards Kitchanga which was immediately repelled by the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC).
“In the meantime, columns of Rwandan army soldiers are observed coming from Rwanda to reinforce the positions of Kibumba and Bwito in anticipation of other criminal actions.”
The Government of President Felix Tshisekedi said it considers this umpteenth attack by Rwanda as “a deliberate act of aggression which amounts to an act of war with the sole objective of sabotaging the ongoing efforts in the implementation of the actions agreed upon within the framework of the Luanda and Nairobi for the restoration of peace in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the region of the Great Lakes”.
“Moreover, a few days before the start of voter registration operations in the Center and East of the country, the Government draws the attention of the international community to the urgent need to maintain pressure on Rwanda and the M23 terrorist movement to stop the violence that risks jeopardizing these operations in this election year.”
Kinshasa said although it is involved in the various peace processes mentioned above, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo reserves the legitimate right to defend its national territory.
The incident comes shortly after President Kagame spoke publicly about the presence of mercenaries in the Congo on January 9, 2023, during the swearing-in of the new president of the Rwanda Senate.
Last week, the Paul Kagame administration released a statement alleging that Kinshasa had imported mercenaries to aid its war against the M23.
M23, in a separate statement the same day, reiterated the presence of mercenaries courtesy of the government.
According to analysts, Kigali would justify its actions if it is established that the Russian mercenary company, Wagner Group, has set up camp in DR Congo.
The East African reported that the move could complicate the conflict, which regional blocs — the EAC and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) — are trying to resolve.
It also provides Kigali with ammunition to counter accusations by Kinshasa of supporting the rebels since Congo has been demanding the exit of all foreign armed groups from its eastern region.
“The recruitment of foreign mercenaries by the DRC is a clear indication that the DRC is preparing for war and not peace. Of particular concern to Rwanda is the complete disregard of the Luanda decision to ‘consider and resolve the issue of the return of refugees to their countries of origin.’ Rwanda continues to bear the burden of hosting over 75,000 Congolese refugees, with more arriving daily due to continued insecurity and persecution in the eastern DRC. The DRC government has not acknowledged the situation of these refugees and made no effort to facilitate their safe return to their homes in the DRC,” Rwanda said in a statement.