A Congolese soldier who was captured by Rwandan forces at the weekend was set free on Tuesday, both countries said, ending a row that risked heightening tensions between the neighbours.
Sergeant-Major Andre Munanga Kusakana “has been returned to us,” said Olivier Hamuli, spokesman for the Congolese army in the country’s troubled North-Kivu province, on the border with Rwanda.
Hamuli had on Sunday said that the soldier was pounced on by three Rwandan police officers as he was walking in a neutral border zone, an act he said amounted to “a kidnapping.”
The Rwandan army for its part said they had arrested the “heavily armed” soldier inside their territory for carrying out “suspect activities.”
The incident came amid continuing tension between Kigali and Kinshasa over a rebellion in and around the eastern city of Goma, the capital of North-Kivu province.
The Democratic Republic of Congo and the United Nations accuse Rwanda of being actively involved in the rebellion by the M23, a group of former rebels who were integrated in the army in 2009 but mutinied again last year.
Rwanda in turn has accused the Congolese army of firing rockets and mortar shells on its territory and has massed troops at the border, sparking fears of a further regionalisation of the conflict.
Hamuli said the Joint Verification Mechanism, a multinational team of military officers set up by the Great Lakes regional body last year in a bid to defuse the M23 crisis, had helped facilitate the soldier’s return.
The Rwandan defence ministry confirmed the officer’s release on its Twitter feed.
“#FARDC Sergeant Major Kusakana Munanga Andre, arrested on #Rwanda territory was handed over to EJVM today as gesture of good will and peace,” it said.
Additional reporting by Agencies