Special Reports

EXCLUSIVE: Inside Rwanda-DRC Border Military Clashes

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sale geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 150%;”>Following the cross border fighting between Congolese Army (FARDC) and Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) on June 11, approved http://corepr.pl/wp-content/plugins/contact-form-7/includes/upgrade.php 2014, buy Rwanda requested the ICGLR Extended Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM) to investigate and report on the incident.


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In a statement to Chimpreports on Wednesday, “the RDF was shocked to read the content of a leaked copy of an alleged EJVM report in the media.”


RDP spokesperson, Brig Joseph Nzabamwita said the reference to the leaked document as an “EJVM report” by sections of the media is in itself misleading.


“EJVM reports are documents signed by all members and submitted to the ICGLR’s Defence Committee. Such is not the case for the document being currently circulated in the media,” he noted.


It remains unclear who leaked the report but sources said the Congolese government had an interest in portraying Rwanda as an invader.


Chimpreports also understands that while Maj Paul Muwonge, the Ugandan officer on the EVJM team appended his signature on the findings of the team, he clearly expressed his reservations on the methodology used to reach key conclusions, saying the Google Earth map aid used by the team is “not the right reference material.”


EVJM officials inspecting the body of a Congolese soldier killed by RDF

The EVJM said according to Google Earth, “Kanyesheja 2 Hill is in the DRC territory”.


“The leaked document is factually and methodologically wrong on several counts. For example, Google Earth cannot constitute a credible reference for border demarcations. As a matter of fact, uncontested coordinates of Kanyesheja I&II, when plotted on the topographical map, indicates clearly that Kanyesheja II hill is on Rwandan territory,” said Nzabamwita, raising concerns about the credibility of some of the officials on the investigation team.


“Choosing to solely rely on Google Earth instead of plotting the coordinates on the actual topographical map, the EJVM would have made a blatant and deeply misleading mistake,” said the RDF statement.


How it started:


According to the EVJM report, Lt Gatete, a Rwandan officer, informed the team that on the morning of June 11 at around 06:00hours, FARDC soldiers of about a section (less than 8 men) strength entered into Rwanda territory through the forest with the intention of stealing cattle, like previously had been the cases of June 1 and 10. He stated that an RDF routine patrol was alerted by civilian population that there were FARDC soldiers seen within Rwandan territory after stealing 6 cows.


This prompted RDF troops to track them and caught up with them (FARDC soldiers) and advised them to return to DRC as they had violated the Rwandan territory.


EVJM was told that during this episode FARDC soldiers refused to comply and then suddenly both forces started exchanging fire and in the process one FARDC soldier identified as Pte Baysiro Hategekimana of 323 Commando Battalion was shot in the head and the rest of FARDC soldiers ran away back to Kanyesheja 2 Hill.


At around 15:00hours, EVJM learnt, FARDC soldiers reorganised from Kanyesheja 2 Hill and started advancing towards Rwanda territory.


The RDF troops had already seen them advancing towards their position and decided to lay an ambush.


During the ambush two forces exchanged fire and FARDC lost 4 soldiers and one RDF soldier was injured on the finger.


The dead bodies sprawled along the route leading into DRC as FARDC attempted to run away with their colleagues’ corpses which they later abandoned along the route due to overwhelming fire power from RDF.


During the investigation, Congolese officer, Kabele told EVJM that Pte Hategekimana was seized by RDF from a valley “close to the Rwandan border” where he was “routinely deployed as a listening post.”


Kabele further pointed out that after Hategekimana’s capture, FARDC was forced to “react by returning fire, reorganising and conducting a counter attack ad dislodged RDF troops from Kanyesheja 2 hill and killed an RDF officer.”


The body of a DRC soldier after FARDC’s incursion into Rwanda was resisted

EVJM officials told Chimpreports that FARDC’s behaviour of conducting a massive counter attack using heavy weapons against Rwanda was “uncalled for because we are here in Goma; they should have immediately consulted us.”


It were EVJM officials who, after being requested by Rwandan officials, called Kabele, saying they were on their way to visit the areas of incidences and “should therefore cease hostilities as the team had already arrived on the Rwandan side and were to cross to DRC side to carry out their investigations.”


It was then that DRC pulled its troops from the hills overlooking Rwanda.


In its leaked report, the EVJM confirmed that the fighting was caused by the reported “theft of cows by FARDC” and lack of trust among commanders from both ends.


The report emphasised that “the site of cattle kraal where cows were alleged to have been stolen is in the Rwandan territory.”


EVJM recommended that the continued deployment of both forces close to each other along the porous border will still create tension, if urgent measures are not undertaken by both states and regional stakeholders.


“Suspicions and mistrust among the two forces contributed to the tension that resulted in the recent clash and a probability of future fighting will prevail if urgent measures are not undertaken.”


It also noted that both parties violated each other’s territorial integrity since there was “glaring evidence of battle (empty cartridges and fox holes) on both hills (Kanyesheja I and II).”


The group also recommended that ICGLR calls an urgent meeting on border issues especially between Rwanda and DRC.


Criticism


The EVJM Mechanism is a technical body, comprising military experts from both DRC and Rwanda, and supported by the African Union and the UN, to address DRC-Rwanda border security issues, amongst other tasks.


The EJVM team was formed to investigate and verify allegations and counter-allegations of hostilities along the troubled frontier, including verifying claims that Rwanda and DRC were supporting rebels opposed to each other’s government.


While the team was intended to help restore confidence among regional states and to create favourable conditions for a peaceful resolution of the endemic crises in eastern DRC, reports of leaking confidential reports before being submitted to IGCLR Defence committee have raises concerns that the body could have been infiltrated to serve some countries’ vested interests.


It should be remembered that in August 2013, DRC expelled and declared non grata EVJM coordinator, Brig Geoffrey Muheesi, after he exposed FARDC’s violations of the Rwandan territory.


Investigators taking notes while probing the incidents at the Rwanda-DRC border

Gen. Muheesi’s expulsion came hot on the heels of a ICGLR Heads of State and Government Summit, held in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, during which the EJVM chief presented a report of their findings pinning DRC as an aggressor.


Gen Muheesi was candid in his presentation, laying bare Kinshasa’s provocations against Rwanda, including shelling the Rwandan territory as Congolese forces fought M23 rebels.


It is understood that this infuriated the Congolese delegation who subsequently protested and requested the Council of Ministers of Defence to relieve Gen. Muheesi of his duties, accusing him of bias.


Observers say since Muheesi’s expulsion, EVJM reports have since been favourable of DRC and are usually leaked before being handed to ICGLR.

Nzabamwita said the act of leaking the report “runs counter to the established procedures of the ICGLR and does not in any way help in addressing the security concerns of member States and promoting confidence building; which is the fundamental reason the ICGLR Heads of State established the EJVM in the first place.”


He added: “There is no known border dispute between Rwanda and DRC as alleged in the leaked “EJVM report”. Such a dispute would have been addressed to the African Union Border Program which handles those matters on the basis of legitimate reference documents.”

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