US Secretary of State Blinken visits DRC, Rwanda amid tensions over M23 rebels

·2-min read

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on the second leg of his three-nation African tour that began in South Africa at the weekend, and is due to wrap in Rwanda.

Blinken's visit to the DRC comes as Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi hopes to set the agenda by highlighting recent tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali.

The DRC is currently experiencing a resurgence of hostility with Rwanda, that Kinshasa accuses of supporting the M23 rebel group which has been behind a spike in violence in the eastern Kivu provinces.

Kigali denies backing the mainly Tutsi militia.

After his visit to South Africa which began on Sunday, the US chief diplomat will reportedly be received in the early evening by Tshisekedi who – according to the Congolese presidency – "will not fail to discuss issues of strategic partnership between the DRC and the USA."

"The latest UN experts' report on the invasion of Rwandan troops transformed into the M23 will not fail to be addressed," it added.

'Shared determination' for a diplomatic solution

Speaking to RFI in Pretoria, Blinken underlined that "there are deep concerns about the violence that we've seen ... [and] the potential for that getting worse and spreading in eastern Congo.

"There's a shared determination to see if through our own diplomacy in coordination with other partners, we can help reduce the tension, reduce the violence and help put these countries on a path to both resolving their differences" Blinken added.

He also said that the USA is looking at what steps can be taken to address the well being of the people who live in the eastern DRC, stating that he would "have a lot more to say about this in the in the next couple of days.'

The "March 23 Movement" is a former Tutsi-dominated rebellion that was defeated in 2013, which took up arms again late last year, blaming Kinshasa for not respecting agreements on the demobilisation and reintegration of its fighters.

Human Rights Watch demands Blinken to 'publicly condemn' M23 rebels

A report by experts mandated by the UN Security Council details Rwanda's direct involvement, "unilaterally or jointly with M23 fighters" in eastern Congo.

Kigali denied what it call "invalid allegations" and has argued that it has a right to defend its territory.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has called on Secretary of State Blinken to "articulate inconvenient truths" during his visits to the DRC and Rwanda.

The NGO says Blinken should publicly condemn M23 attacks in the strongest terms and "warn Rwanda of the consequences of its support for M23".

"As in 2012, the M23 is committing war crimes against civilians," HRW said, adding that "witnesses have described summary executions of at least 29 people."