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The volatile border between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda has seen violent outbursts between the two countries over accusations of cross-border raids by their armed forces — and the DRC's government claims that the latest incursion of Rwandan troops occurred on Wednesday in the eastern province of North Kivu, prompting a clash that injured a Congolese soldier.Rwandan authorities immediately denied the allegation, while the country's deputy representative to the UN, Olivier Nduhungirehe, described the charge as "baloney" on Twitter.
North Kivu Gov. Julien Paluku told VICE News on Thursday that he invites Nduhungirehe to come and see the wounded Congolese soldier for himself, adding that it wasn't in the DRC's interest "to accuse another army of making incursions into our territory."Paluku said that 100 Rwandan troops crossed into the DRC on Wednesday and entered Virunga National Park, located half a mile from the border."Park rangers alerted the Congolese army, who sent in a search party," he said. "But when our troops approached, the Rwandan army started firing at our men."The governor said that an independent team from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) had been tasked with investigating the incident.Related: 36 People Burned Alive and Hacked to Death With Axes and Machetes in Latest Congo MassacreIn 2012, the ICGLR activated its "joint verification mechanism" — a multinational military effort to monitor the common border between the DRC and Rwanda. In June 2014, troops from both countries skirmished at the border around North Kivu, leading to the deaths of at least five Congolese soldiers.North Kivu is a mineral-rich province where various armed groups have wreaked havoc over the past two decades. The region is also home to a minority "Rwandophone" community — so-called because they speak Kinyarwanda, the language of Rwanda — and ethnic tensions have contributed to the region's instability.
The March 23 Movement (M23) — a now-defunct rebel military group named after what members considered to be a botched peace agreement between their unit and the DRC government on March 23, 2009 — fought for control of the region's riches before the Congolese army defeated it in November 2013.The DRC government, various UN experts, and rights groups accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels, who were said to have committed war crimes. Many in the region now fear the reemergence of M23.Related: A Chat with the Executive Secretary of Congo's Rampant M23 Rebels"Former M23 [rebels] have just formed a new group, the Christian Movement for the Reconstruction of Congo, and that's what we're concerned about," Paluku told VICE News. He speculated that Rwanda's army might have staged the incursion as a diversion in order "to facilitate the infiltration of M23 onto our territory."In February, the Congolese army launched an offensive against a group of Rwandan Hutu rebels known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The group includes Rwandan Hutus who took part in the 1994 genocide and then fled across the border, and its maneuvering in the DRC has previously triggered cross-border incursions by the Rwandan army.Follow Mélodie Bouchaud on Twitter: @meloboucho Photo via Flickr