Rwanda’s government, on Tuesday January 24, 2023, revealed that a fighter jet from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had violated its airspace, prompting its defence force to fire in response.
A video shared widely on Congolese social media showed a projectile shooting toward an airborne military plane, before exploding in the air near the plane, which continued to fly. Reuters could not immediately verify the video.
The incident is the latest dispute between the two countries whose relationship has been strained by a rebel insurgency.
Congo, United Nations experts and Western powers have accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebel group in eastern Congo, which seized several towns and villages in offensives last year. Rwanda has denied any involvement.
Regional leaders brokered an agreement in November under which the Tutsi-led group was meant to withdraw from recently seized positions by Jan. 15 as part of efforts to end a conflict that has displaced at least 450,000 people.
Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi said last week that the rebels had not fully withdrawn from those areas.
“The RDF (Rwanda Defence Force) fired at the fighter jet from DRC that violated Rwandan airspace in Rubavu – same area as previous violations,” Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo said in a statement.
Makolo said the jet violated its airspace at 5:03 pm local time, prompting the government to take defensive measures against it. “Rwanda asks the DRC to stop this aggression,” she said.
When asked for comment, the Congolese government said it was preparing a statement.
In December, Rwanda said another fighter jet from Congo had briefly violated its air space.
An unarmed Congolese warplane also briefly landed at a Rwandan airport in November while on a reconnaissance mission near the border, in what Congo said was an accident.