KIGALI, Rwanda – A Democratic Republic of Congo fighter jet entered Rwandan airspace on Monday, both governments said, in what Rwanda called a “provocation”, although Congo said it was a mistake.
No military action was taken and the warplane returned to Congo.
The incident comes at a time of particularly high tensions between the neighbours, as Congo blames Rwanda for supporting a rebel group fighting in its east.
On Monday morning, a Sukhoi-25 fighter jet from Congo violated Rwandan airspace and briefly touched down at Rubavu Airport in Rwanda’s Western Province, the Rwandan government said in a statement.
“Rwandan authorities have protested this provocation to the DRC government,” it said.
The plane was unarmed and accidentally entered Rwandan airspace while on a reconnaissance mission near the border, said the Congolese government in a statement, denying any ill intent.
Congo and Rwanda have been at odds since M23 rebels stepped up offensives in eastern Congo this year.
Congolese authorities have long accused Rwanda of backing the Tutsi-led group, which resumed fighting against Congo’s army on October 20 in North Kivu province. Congo expelled the Rwandan ambassador days later in retaliation for this alleged support.
Rwanda denies any involvement, saying the accusations are a tactic to cover up Congo’s security failures.
Officials from both countries held talks in Angola on Saturday to end the political stand-off.
Unrest in North Kivu has broken months of relative calm in east Congo, a mineral rich area plagued with militia activity.
Army forces have clashed with M23 rebels several times since fighting resumed, prompting more than 90,000 people to flee their homes.
Despite efforts to push them back, militants captured the town of Kiwanja, de-facto cutting off the upper half of the province.
Thousands staged anti-Rwanda protests in the eastern city of Goma on October 31.
Congo and Rwanda pledged to end hostilities in July, weeks after the group staged its most serious offensive since a 2012-2013 insurrection that seized vast swathes of territory.