Ahead Of Rwanda Visit, Blinken Says US ‘Concerned’ By Reports Of Kigali Support For DRC Rebels

Ahead Of Rwanda Visit, Blinken Says US ‘Concerned’ By Reports Of Kigali Support For DRC Rebels

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By Spy Uganda Correspondent

On the eve of his visit to Rwanda on Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his country is “concerned” by “credible” reports that Rwanda is supporting rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

The resurgence of the M23 group in Congo’s restive east has exacerbated tensions between the neighbours, with Kinshasa accusing Kigali of backing the rebels.

Blinken was speaking in the Congolese capital Kinshasa, where he arrived on Tuesday for the second leg of a three-nation African tour and met President Felix Tshisekedi.

“We are very concerned by credible reports that Rwanda has supported the M23,” the top US diplomat told a press conference in Kinshasa. “All countries have to respect their neighbours’ territorial integrity. Any entry of foreign forces into the DRC must be done transparently and with the consent of the DRC.”

Blinken added that he was “not turning a blind eye” and would discuss the issue with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

He said his trip to the region was to ensure US support for mediation efforts led by Angola and Kenya “to prevent further violence, to end the conflict (and) to preserve the territorial integrity of the DRC”.

He spoke after visiting South Africa on Monday, where he said the United States was seeking a “true partnership” with Africa.

Strained Relations

The DRC is seeking international support as it struggles with Rwanda over the M23, a primarily Congolese Tutsi group that is one of many operating in the troubled east.

After lying mostly dormant for years, the rebels resumed fighting late last year, seizing the strategic town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border in June and prompting thousands of people to flee their homes.

In a 131-page report to the UN Security Council, experts said Rwandan troops had intervened militarily inside the DRC since at least November.

Rwanda also “provided troop reinforcements” for specific M23 operations, the experts’ report said, “in particular when these aimed at seizing strategic towns and areas”.

Congolese Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula on Tuesday urged the United Nations to make the report public.

“We demand the Security Council publish (this) report in its entirety,” he said.

Kinshasa and Kigali have had strained relations since the mass influx of Rwandan Hutus accused of slaughtering Tutsis during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.

Relations began to thaw after Tshisekedi took office in 2019 but the M23’s resurgence has revived tensions.

The group, also known as the “March 23 Movement”, first leapt to prominence in 2012 when it briefly captured the city of Goma before a joint Congolese-UN offensive drove it out.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has led an initiative to disarm the active rebel groups, while Angolan counterpart Joao Lourenco has worked to ease tensions between Kinshasa and Kigali.

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