Rwanda and Congo on brink of war: fighter jet on fire

A Congolese fighter jet is said to have violated Rwandan airspace. He gets shot at. Martial tones follow from Kigali and Kinshasa.

Hit: Tuesday just after 5 p.m. at the Congo-Rwanda border Photo: TWITTER/@JEANPAULBISHWE7 via REUTERS

The moment the Congolese fighter jet entered Rwandan airspace, there was a loud bang. A defensive missile rises, a cloud of smoke curls in the sky. The Russian-supplied Sukhoi-25 fighter jet keeps flying without tumbling — that’s how it is on one Video to see that has been making the rounds on social media in the heart of Africa since late Tuesday afternoon. Another one will circulate later photo: Allegedly, a Rwandan soldier with a rocket launcher on his shoulder is aiming at the approaching fighter jet in the sky.

The Sukhoi fighter jet finally lands safely at the airport of the eastern Congolese provincial capital Goma. Flames lick the right wing, smoke rises, is on another Video to see: The pilot opens the cockpit door and hastily crawls out. Photographs from local residents The airport finally shows two fire engines spraying water and extinguishing the flames.

“Today at 5:03 p.m., a Suckoi-25 from the DR Congo entered Rwandan airspace for the third time,” the Rwandan government announced in a succinct manner in the evening press statement with. “Defensive measures have been taken. Rwanda is calling on Congo to stop these aggressions.” Shortly thereafter, Rwandan warships are cruising Lake Kivu, which separates Rwanda from Congo.

Later, the military administration of the Congolese province of North Kivu, in which Goma is located and where martial law has been in force for almost two years, reported the incident completely different dar: “The plane was not hit, it triggered its missile defense system, and it was the flame that you saw and that flame destroyed the missile launched by Rwanda.” A official statement from Congo’s distant capital, Kinshasa, expressly emphasizes that the machine “never” violated Rwandan airspace, but was attacked within Congolese territory.

The incident makes it clear: The Great Lakes region is on the verge of sinking into a regional war. As early as Monday, North Kivus’ military governor, General Constant Ndima, sounded the alarm in front of the press: “All the signals of a war are visible. We have to prepare for it.” The conflict that has been going on for over a year in the border triangle between the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda is now spilling over the borders. And, conversely, the neighboring countries already have a military presence in the Congo.

UN investigations have revealed that Rwandan troops suspected of supporting the M23 (March 23 Movement) rebel movement have invaded Congo. Ugandan and Burundian soldiers are present in different regions to disarm local militias. In Goma, Kenyan soldiers are part of an East African strike force to force a withdrawal of the M23 from their areas and allow peace talks, which Congo’s government opposes, supported by demonstrators on Goma’s streets. A spark is enough for the region to descend into violence again.

For a week now there has been fierce fighting again outside of Goma. There is no longer any talk of peace talks, such as those initiated at various levels by the East African Community (EAC) and the International Great Lakes Conference (ICGLR) in recent months. Instead, Congo’s government army launched a new offensive against the M23 rebels – with the support of Romanian mercenaries and the old Russian fighter jets, which were refurbished by Bulgarian engineers in recent weeks.

The front is in the Masisi district, in the mountains northwest of Goma, far from the Rwandan border. Congo’s government claims that Rwandan troops, in collaboration with the M23, have already advanced to outside the town of Kitchanga in Masisi. It is a legitimate right for Congo to defend its territory.

Meanwhile, the M23 is again threatening to encircle the megacity of Goma. The “lions” are on their way to sake, it was announced on Tuesday evening on the Twitter account of M23 military chief General Sultani Makenga announced. The small town of Sake is located about 20 kilometers west of Goma, on the shore of Lake Kivu.

Should the M23, which already cuts off the trunk roads north of Goma, also cut off this important transport link to the west for Goma, the city of over a million people would be surrounded right on the border with Rwanda. The only way out would then be by boat across Lake Kivu, where Rwanda’s navy has already been spotted. “Even the city of Goma must be taken,” threatens the M23.

The M23 rebels had already taken Goma by storm in their first war in 2012 and occupied it for ten days to force Congo’s government to the negotiating table. According to rebel circles, this is now the strategy again.

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