Act of War

By Faith Gonia

A recent breach of Rwanda airspace by the Democratic Republic of the Congo reignited a decades-long conflict between the two African countries. On Tuesday, January 24, Rwanda’s military fired on a DR Congo fighter jet. The opposing nations have maintained vastly disconnected perspectives on Tuesday’s event. 

Rebutting a claim by Rwanda that the DRC violated Rwanda’s airspace, the Congolese government has labeled their aggressor’s airstrike as a “deliberate. . .act of war.” Meanwhile, Rwanda asserts that Tuesday was a third violation of their airspace, and defensive measures were absolutely necessary.

Evidently, the two countries share a protective mindset; although, their separate, differing accounts each fail to be completely verified. 

Disputes between Rwanda and the DRC originate in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. 

When members of the Hutu ethnic group murdered hundreds of thousands of the Tutsi minority, the DRC (then Zaire) used their neighboring position to Rwanda to allegedly provide refuge for fleeing Hutus. In the twenty-eight years following, tensions between Rwanda and the DRC have risen and fallen. Yet recent hostility demonstrates cause for concern with the resurgence of the rebel Congolese March 23 Movement, or M23.

Starting in 2012, the M23, approximately 300 (mostly) Tutsi soldiers, led a rebellion against their DRC government for stated poor army conditions. However, the United Nations announced Rwanda’s responsibility for the rebel group itself. Since M23’s creation, they have launched multiple offensives, the most recent of which occurred in November 2022. 

In consideration of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda’s unfriendly history, officials speculate further controversy stemming from this year’s airstrikes.