DR Congo says Rwanda killed 2 children in 'war crime' shelling

Congolese army soldiers return to Kibumba with their luggage and weapons after spending time on the front lines a few miles from the city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on June 1, 2022. PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • The African Union, the United Nations and others have appealed for calm amid spiking regional tensions. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo's army said Friday that Rwanda had shelled a school on its territory, killing two children, in what it called a "war crime" and "crime against humanity".

The army in a statement said Rwandan forces had launched an artillery bombardment on Friday afternoon on two areas of the Rutshuru territory of North Kivu province in the conflict-torn eastern DRC.

Shells hit a school killing two boys aged six and seven, the Congolese army said, while another boy was wounded in the attack.

"In addition to the human toll, the Rwandan army bombed an entire school. This constitutes both a war crime and a crime against humanity," it said. 

The charge follows a statement by Rwanda's defence ministry earlier on Friday which accused the Congolese army of firing two rockets into its territory.

The tit-for-tat accusations come amid a sharp deterioration in relations over the recent resurgence of the M23 militia in the DRC's volatile east. 

The DRC has accused Rwanda of backing the primarily Congolese Tutsi group, and last month said it had detained two Rwandan soldiers in its eastern region, holding this as proof of Kigali's involvement.

Rwanda has repeatedly denied backing the M23.

On Friday, the Congolese army also denied firing rockets into Rwanda and suggested that Rwanda had staged an attack on its own soil in a bid to "deceive or mislead" the international community. 

Relations between the DRC and Rwanda have been strained since the mass arrival in the eastern DRC of Rwandan Hutus accused of slaughtering Tutsis during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Relations began to thaw after DRC President Felix Tshisekedi took office in 2019 but a flare-up of M23 violence last month has reignited tensions.

The African Union, the United Nations and others have appealed for calm amid spiking regional tensions. 

Belgium's King Philippe, who is currently in the DRC for a historic six-day tour of the former Belgian colony, is scheduled to visit the eastern city of Bukavu on Sunday.