In the early hours of January 16, 2024, an incident at the Rwanda-Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border raised tensions, involving the crossing of three armed Congolese soldiers into Rwandan territory. The Rwandan Ministry of Defense reported that this occurred at 0110hrs in the Rubavu District, specifically in Rubavu Sector, Rukoko Cell, Isangano Village.
The Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) apprehended two of the soldiers, identified as Sgt Asman Mupenda Termite, aged 30, and Cpl Anyasaka Nkoi Lucien, aged 28, with the aid of local neighborhood watch patrols. The third soldier was shot and killed in a confrontation after he fired at the patrols. The RDF seized an AK-47 gun, four magazines with 105 rounds, a protective vest, and cannabis sachets from the soldiers. The RDF reported no casualties on their side and stated that further investigations are underway.
Brigadier General Ronald Rwivanga, spokesperson for the RDF, in a conversation with the YouTube Channel Mama Urwagasabo, commented on the incident. He noted that while one soldier attempted to shoot and was subsequently neutralized, the other two were captured and are currently under investigation. Brig Gen Rwivanga also addressed rumors that the soldiers had previously visited a local bar in Rwanda, stating that the primary focus is the capture and ongoing investigation of the soldiers, and further details will be disclosed in due time.
On the Congolese side, military spokesperson Sylvain Ekenge expressed unawareness of the incident. The background of this event is marked by longstanding accusations from Kinshasa against Kigali for supporting M23 rebels in eastern Congo. This rebel group, predominantly composed of members from the Tutsi ethnic group, launched an offensive near Uganda last year, resulting in the displacement of over a million people.
Adding to the regional complexity, this incident coincides with the announcement by the Congolese military of the commencement of joint military operations with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) force. Lt General Fall Sikabwe, on January 16, 2024, emphasized the distinct nature of the SADC mission, stating it would be offensive and aimed at aiding the inhabitants and population of North Kivu, who are impacted by the M23 and RDF activities.