The Rwanda Defence Forces has downplayed the incident in which two Rwandan soldiers were on Monday arrested within about 10m inside the neighbouring DR Congo.
Two RDF soldiers – an officer and a non-commissioned office – who had been held by the Congolese armed forces (FARDC) were handed to Rwandan authorities on Monday, according to a statement released by the Rwandan military yesterday.
“On April 15, 2018 at 8p.m, a Rwanda Defence Force officer (Lieutenant) and one of his men (private) from the 11 Infantry Battalion, while on patrol, “accidentally crossed the borderline between Rwanda and DRC at Rubavu District,” the statement added.
It said the incident occurred in the general border area in Karundo Village, Mbungangali Cell, Gisenyi Sector, at around 10 meters from Rwanda-DR Congo border.
“This incident was caused by the lack of clear border demarcation between Rwanda and the DRC. It is a regrettable but common cross-border incident as on several occasions we have returned FARDC soldiers who had accidentally crossed to our side,” the statement quoted the Defence and Military Spokesperson, Lt Col Innocent Munyengango, as saying.
In a subsequent interview with The New Times, Munyengango said the soldiers were released after a subsequent probe established that they meant no harm and had simply crossed the borderline by mistake because they had just been deployed to the border area.
“These are the new soldiers who were deployed along Rwanda-DRC border about two weeks ago. It is very possible that they were not familiar with the territory and so they mistakenly crossed into DRC,” he said. “They weren’t fighting or firing at anyone and that is why it was a smooth operation throughout.”
Upon arrest, the Congolese army handed them over to the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM) team which in turn investigated the incident.
EJVM is a multinational team of observers deployed under the auspices of the International Conference for the Great Lakes Region.
“The RDF and FARDC, together with the Great Lakes Region Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism, handled the incident amicably and the two were handed over yesterday to RDF authorities in Rubavu,” the statement further stated.
Between 2016 and 2018, at least 34 Congolese soldiers have been returned to DR Congo after illegally crossing into the Rwandan territory, the Rwandan military said.