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Since November 22, 2022, Twitter accounts have claimed, with supporting images, that a French military plane was forced to land at Kisangani airport, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, when it was about to to supply “enemies of the DRC”. But several Congolese and French sources explain that it was actually a crew relief mission en route to Reunion Island, which was forced to land following an engine failure. .
Verification in a nutshell
- Since November 22, Twitter accounts have been sharing photographs showing a French army plane parked in the Democratic Republic of Congo, at Kisangani airport. According to these accounts, this plane loaded with “weapons” was forced to land as it prepared to supply “enemies of the DRC”.
- The Observateurs editorial staff contacted several Congolese and French sources to verify these allegations: it turns out that this military plane landed in Kisangani on November 18, 2022, following damage reported on one of its engines.
- The spokesman for the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the staff of the French armies both indicate that this flight did not include weapons. Departing from mainland France with a stopover in Chad and one to come in Burundi, its final destination was Reunion Island where this “routine” flight was only to carry out a crew change.
The details of the check
“En route to supply the M23 terrorists, a French military plane landed in Kisangani in the DRC”, “A French plane loaded with bombs and automatic weapons was stopped at Kisangani airport”… Since 22 November, these sentences are shared by Congolese Twitter accounts. These also broadcast images of a French air force plane parked on the tarmac at Kisangani-Bangoka airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
According to these publications, which have accumulated several hundred retweets, this plane would in fact be loaded with weapons and bombs. It was reportedly intercepted, or forced to land, as it prepared to supply “enemies of the Democratic Republic of Congo”, in particular the rebel M23 movement, which is currently fighting the Congolese armed forces in the east. from the country.
To verify these allegations, the editorial staff of the France 24 Observers contacted several sources. First of all, the spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), Sylvain Ekenge, explains that he was made aware of the landing of this plane on 22 November. It also specifies:
The plane sent out a distress signal and was cleared to land on November 18 at Kisangani airport. It was a French air force plane that was going from N’djamena in Chad to Burundi. The airport authorities and the FARDC carried out the usual checks and, contrary to what can be read on social networks, no weapon was found inside.
It turns out that the plane had a technical problem and that the crew is waiting for a part to be changed in order to be able to take off again. In the meantime, the crew is currently staying in a hotel in Kisangani.
Same story from the side of the Congolese government spokesman, Patrick Muyaya, who gave a press conference on November 22 and transmitted the same information, as relayed on Twitter by RFI journalist Pascal Mulegwa.
Finally, these explanations have been confirmed and clarified by French sources. Contacted by the editorial staff of France 24 Observers, the office of the Chief of Staff of the French Armed Forces adds:
The CASA CN-235 of the Air and Space Force was making the trip from mainland France to Reunion (with a scheduled stopover in N’Djamena and another in Bujumbura, Burundi) for a relief of crew. There is no freight on board [pas de transports de cargaisons, NDLR].
The plane reported a failure of one of its two engines over the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it was diverted to Kisangani airport to resolve the problem. The aircraft is currently parked at Kisangani airport, awaiting spare parts and the recovery team which should arrive very soon.
Our colleagues from the Politico media contacted security officials at Kisangani airport, who also told them that the team sent from mainland France to carry out the repair of the plane should arrive in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday, November 24.
Accusations of the presence of “weapons” transported by French soldiers and intended for rebel groups are regularly shared intox, as recently in Mali or earlier in 2021.
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