Several mediation attempts have taken place in a bid to reach a lull in fighting, most notably the Luanda agreement. However, tensions have continued to simmer between the neighbouring countries.
Rwandan soldiers and police from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) clashed in eastern Congo on Sunday amid soaring tensions and postponed talks in Qatar.
According to AFP, citing Congolese sources, the violence erupted when police on Ibindja island “challenged” three boats carrying armed Rwandan troops. The discussions appeared to turn violent with locals reporting loud voices and “exchanges of gunfire”.
The French agency added that Archimede Karhebwa, DRC local assistant administrator, said one police officer sustained a gunshot though confirmed that the situation was under control.
The latest violence comes as tensions between Rwanda and the DRC continue to rise, with both countries throwing tit-for-tat accusations of support for rebels on both sides.
The escalations were triggered last year after deadly clashes erupted between troops and rebels from the M23, which captured the strategic town of Kiwanja.
Both Washington and Kinshasa said the M23 are backed by Kigali, though it has continued to deny those claims.
The intense fighting in the DRC has forced tens of thousands of Congolese to flee to neighbouring countries including Rwanda, which saw 72,000 cross the border by November, per figures shared by the United Nations.
The same month saw a massacre in which at least 131 civilians were killed following a reemergence of violence in October. The UN blamed the M23 rebels for the killings following a preliminary investigation by its peacekeeping mission.
On the other hand, Rwanda blamed DRC for allegedly backing the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
In another round of violence on Friday, M23 rebels led an offensive in Kitshanga, known as a strategic town in eastern DRC, that forced 450 people out. The rebel group captured the area after seizing several others in North Kivu.
Several mediation attempts have taken place in a desperate bid to reach a lull in fighting, most notably the Luanda agreement. However, tensions have continued to simmer between the neighbouring countries.
Seeking to restore calm, heavyweight mediator Qatar and its US ally attempted to mediate between Kigali and Kinshasa.
Last week, reports said the Gulf state has been rallying efforts to mediate between both sides “for weeks” in an attempt to bring together Rwanda’s leader Paul Kagame and DRC’s leader Felix Tshisekedi amid soaring tensions.
A meeting reportedly scheduled to take place last week was postponed after Tshisekedi opted out of travelling to Doha.
Officials from Angola, Burundi, and Kenya have also been reportedly invited to the meeting in Doha. A delegation from Rwanda and the African Union were already in the Gulf state at the time.
Though it has yet to be publicly announced by authorities in Doha, the latest mediation attempt would add to the Gulf state’s record of conflict resolution across different parts of the world.
Qatar played a pivotal role in the signing of the Chad Peace Agreement in Doha in August last year following months of talks between more than 50 sides. The agreement was seen as a key step in facilitating long-delayed elections following a period of political unrest.