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Congolese, Rwandan soldiers clash in North Kivu

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Heavy fighting broke out between the Rwandan and Congolese military in troubled eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after an incursion by Rwandan troops, according to a Congolese army spokesman

“Our troops fought on Congolese soil on the border with Rwanda at the foot of Mount Nikeno,” in the territory of Rutshuru in North Kivu province, Major Guillaume Djike told AFP in his speech of the military operation Sokola II.

The FARDC on patrol clashed with Rwandan army positions some 100 meters inside the DRC. There was an exchange of fire. The army initially thought it was fighting against ex-M23, before finding out that they were Rwandan solidiers, explained Major Djike. “There have been deaths on both sides,” a senior officer in the DRC army told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the Joint ICGLR Verification Mechanism (JMV) announced on Wednesday (February 14th) that an investigation into the clashes that occurred is being carried out to find out what caused the clash between both armies in Isoke, towards Sabinyo Hill, in the Virunga National Park, Rutshuru territory.

The Congolese army that seized the VMY demands the unconditional withdrawal of the Rwandan army from Congolese soil. According to several sources, the security services of the FARDC have received the warning of a probable incursion of M23 ex-combatants on Congolese soil, from Uganda for more than a week.

It is in this context that the FARDC reinforced their patrols at the borders between the DRC and Uganda on the one hand, and between the DRC and Rwanda on the other.

On Tuesday during the day, according to the same sources, a FARDC patrol that went to the Isoke region fell on a camp maintained by armed men and in military uniform that they later identified as of soldiers of the Rwandan army.  In the clashes that followed, two elements lost their lives on the FARDC side and “many others” on the other side, according to sources contacted by Radio Okapi.

On Wednesday, the FARDC seized the ICGLR Joint Verification Mechanism, demanding the unconditional withdrawal of the Rwandan army from Congolese territory while reliable sources within the FARDC confirmed the arrival of Rwandan army reinforcements in the incident area.

Rwanda says, for its part, to have been surprised on its territory by the Congolese army. The ICGLR Joint Verification Mechanism, which is planning to visit the region in the next few hours, will need to establish which of two armies violated the border boundaries.

Relative calm is to have been observed Thursday, February 15 morning in the area of Isoke according to reports in the territory of Rutshuru (North Kivu), after  the two countries’ capitals contacted each other and intervened, according to a military source from DRC.

After clashes, last Tuesday a Joint Verification Mechanism of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) was established to find out which of two armies violated the border boundaries in the Isoke area, towards the Sabinyo hill.

The joint verification mechanism delegation was said to leave Goma soon to visit the area via Rwanda. The FARDC and the Rwandan army clashed in Isoke.

The two armies are accusing each other of violation of the limits that separate the two countries. Rwanda says it was attacked on its territory by the Congolese national army, while for the FARDC, they have GPS coordinates that show that Rwanda has illegally established its camps on Congolese soil.

The FARDC said that the satellite data taken more than a week ago, show three camps of Rwandan soldiers in the Virunga Park. They would be located 400, 200 and 150 meters from the border between the two countries, on Congolese soil.

In a letter to the ICGLR Joint Verification Mechanism sent Wednesday, February 14, the FARDC military hierarchy demands the unconditional withdrawal of Rwandan troops from the DRC.

 

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