Rwanda says it is ready to launch a surgical strike inside the Democratic Republic of Congo if there is a new cross-border shelling, raising the prospect of another war in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
A trailer carrying a tank leaves the Rwandan capital of Kigali en route to the border town of Gisenyi, August 30, 2013. Rwanda has deployed troops on the Congolese border.
On Friday, rebels from Congo’s March 23 movement (M23) clashed with Congolese troops, and Rwanda accused the Congolese army, the FARDC, of cross-border shelling and shooting.
General Joseph Nzabamwita, the Rwandan army’s spokesman, said troops across the border had “fired three bombs and small arms fire” at a village in Rubavu district, close to the border towns of Gisenyi in Rwanda and Goma in the DR Congo.
The Congolese army “targeted innocent civilians in Rwanda, and fleeing Congolese refugees,” he said, saying a 58-year-old refugee was wounded.
The M23 rebels defected from the FARDC in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the army.
The UN and Kinshasa have repeatedly accused Rwanda of helping the rebels in Congo. Rwanda has always denied the charges that it is backing the M23, but Kigali has never publicly condemned the militia, which is strengthening its grip over the provinces of North Kivu and South Kivu in the eastern Congo.
Rwandan UN Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana said Rwanda is ready to act and it will hurt.
Congo’s adventurous neighbor is reportedly planning to launch a military offensive against a country with which it fought two wars in the past two decades.
“If they are not ready to stop this, we will immediately act and it will hurt,” Rwandan UN Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana said on Friday after the UN Security Council held talks on the heightened tensions in the volatile region.
“We will do it with laser precision, we know where it is coming from,” said Gasana, whose country is a non-permanent member of the Security Council.
He went on to say that Rwanda had conveyed a tough message to the other 14 Security Council members.
“We are asking them to get along … and to take their fight far from our border. We already warned the government of Kinshasa,” Gasana added.
Rwanda has deployed troops on the Congolese border, the envoy revealed.
“If they dare to continue, it will hurt. We don’t need to increase anything. We have sufficient strength and we know how to deal with it.”
The M23 rebels and several other armed groups are active in the eastern Congo and are fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones.
Since early May 2012, nearly three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but about 500,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead.