GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Rwanda accused UN-backed Congolese forces of shelling its territory during a battle with rebels near the border yesterday but said it had no plans to respond militarily to what it called Kinshasa’s “provocation”.
Tension between the central African neighbors is reaching breaking point over an insurgency in Congo’s eastern hills that Kinshasa’s government says is orchestrated by Rwanda with designs on the region’s mineral riches.
“Rwanda does not intend to respond to provocation coming from the DRC,” Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told Reuters. “Issues in (eastern Democratic Republic of Congo) are too serious to be subjected to game playing.”
A Rwandan army spokesman earlier said Congo’s military had fired artillery, anti-aircraft and tank rounds into the Rwandan border town of Gisenyi, injuring three people, as fighting raged between Congo’s army and advancing M23 rebels.
Guests at a Rwandan hotel near Congo’s border ran for cover yesterday afternoon as heavy weapons fire thudded nearby, a Reuters witness said.
Sustained gunfire could also be heard across the border from the direction of the airport in Goma, the capital of Congo’s North Kivu province where Congolese troops, some manning tanks, took up positions in the city center at nightfall.
The M23 halted their advance about 5 km (3 miles) from Goma on Sunday.
Congo’s government, which has repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing the eight-month M23 rebellion as a means of controlling mineral riches in North Kivu, said yesterday Kigali may have staged the shelling on its own territory.
“We have information that Rwanda has been firing into their own territory to justify a larger intervention,” Congo government spokesman Lambert Mende said, without outright denying reports of Congolese shelling.
A local UN official said Congo’s presidential guard unit had fired the heavy weapons into Rwandan territory, though a spokesman for the United Nations in New York said the reports could not be immediately confirmed.