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Blinken visits Rwanda as reports emerge of country’s support for rebels in DRC

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame in Kigali on Thursday, where he is expected to focus on reports that Rwanda has been interfering militarily in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mr Blinken said he discussed with Rwandan President Kagame credible reports that Rwanda continued to support the M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Anthony Blinken added that both Paul Kagame and Congo President Felix Tshisekedi had agreed to engage in direct talks with each other to address the fighting.

“My message to both President Tshisekedi and President Kagame this week has been the same: any support or cooperation with any armed group in eastern DRC endangers local communities and regional stability, and every country in the region must respect the territorial integrity of the others,” he stated during a joint media event with his Rwandan counterpart.

He is also expected to raise the detention of Paul Rusesabagina, a US permanent resident who was portrayed as a hero in the movie “Hotel Rwanda” and sentenced to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges related to the activities of an organisation opposed to President Paul Kagame’s rule.

Met with @UrugwiroVillage and @Vbiruta about the U.S.-Rwanda relationship and how to reduce tensions and ongoing violence in the region. We also discussed U.S. concerns about democracy and human rights in Rwanda, including the wrongful detention of Paul Rusesabagina. pic.twitter.com/ZymNMisHDk

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) August 11, 2022

The report

A confidential report sent to the United Nations Security Council last week said Rwandan troops have been fighting alongside the M23 rebels in Congo and that President Kigali has been providing the group with weapons and support since November.

The US is a longstanding ally of Rwanda’s president. However, during his visit to Kinshasa Secretary Blinken told reporters on Tuesday the reports provided by the UN were “credible”.

I depart Kinshasa grateful to my counterparts for our productive meetings this week, which covered a wide range of issues, including violence in eastern DRC, combating corruption, supporting trade & investment, addressing the climate crisis, and building agricultural resilience. pic.twitter.com/w0chYUFSfM

— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) August 10, 2022

Rwanda’s government has said the UN findings, based on evidence including witness testimony and drone images, were false and that the M23 was Congo’s responsibility.

M23

A target of the M23 and Rwandan operations in Congo has been the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Hutu militia that Rwanda accuses Congo of using as a proxy. Congo’s government denies the accusation.

Since May, M23 has waged its most sustained offensive in years, killing dozens and displacing tens of thousands of people. By July, it controlled a territory in Congo almost three times as large as it did in March, UN experts said.


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