KINSHASA, CONGO (AP) – Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi accused Rwanda of trying to occupy his country’s land for its vast mineral wealth, the latest escalation in tensions between the two neighbours that has led to talk of war.
There was no immediate reaction to the Congolese president’s comments, though Rwanda has long denied supporting the M23 rebels who captured a key town in eastern Congo earlier this week.
Earlier in the day, Rwanda said that a Congolese soldier had crossed the border and began shooting at Rwandan security forces and civilians before being shot dead.
In his comments, Congo’s president called on international leaders including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to step up the pressure on Rwanda when it hosts the Commonwealth summit next week.
“The security situation in the east of the country continues to deteriorate, and fundamentally because Rwanda seeks to occupy our land, rich in gold, coltan and cobalt, for their own exploitation and profit,” the Congolese president said. “This is an economic war for the battle of resources, fought by Rwanda’s terrorist gangs.”
“Eastern Congolese civilians are innocents under brutal attack from our neighbour,” he added.
Decades-old tensions between Rwanda, which has one of Africa’s most effective militaries, and Congo, one of the continent’s largest and most troubled countries, have spiked along their shared border a few hours’ drive from Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.
Alarm has reached the point where Kenya’s president is urging the immediate deployment of a newly created regional force to eastern Congo to keep the peace.
Rwanda already has said it would contribute troops.
Congo’s president, though, said late on Friday that his country “will not accept the participation of Rwanda in this joint force.” Each side has accused the other of incursions.
Congo now seeks to suspend all agreements with Rwanda. If Rwanda wants war, “it will have war”, a spokesman for the military governor of Congo’s North Kivu province told thousands of protesters on Wednesday.
Rwanda’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs in charge of East African affairs, Manasseh Nshuti, told reporters on Friday that dialogue “is the solution” to the issues with Congo. Earlier in the day, a Rwanda Defence Force statement said the unidentified Congolese soldier crossed the border on Friday morning in Rubavu district and injured two Rwandan police officers.
The statement said a Rwanda National Police officer fired in self-defence and the Congolese soldier was killed.
The Rwandan statement said Congolese authorities were informed and border officials from both countries were at the scene. A body of military experts from regional states also was at the scene.
“The situation at the border is now calm,” Rwanda’s statement said.
A Congo government spokesman confirmed an “incident” but gave no details. The body of the Congolese soldier was taken back across the border and into the city of Goma, where a large crowd accompanied the car with his remains while shouting “hero”.