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Tensions between the neighbors have increased as a result of the M23 group’s revival in the unrest-ridden east of the Congo, with Kinshasa slandering Kigali for supporting the rebels.
Mr. Blinken was giving a speech in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where he visited President Felix Tshisekedi on the returning match of a three-nation African tour.
After spending a day in Kinshasa, Mr. Blinken is scheduled to travel to Rwanda, which has refuted the accusations.
‘We are very concerned by credible reports that Rwanda has supported the M23,” the top U.S. diplomat told a press conference in Kinshasa.’
‘All countries have to respect their neighbors’ territorial integrity,” he added, saying he was “not turning a blind eye” and would discuss the issue with Rwandan President Paul Kagame’
According to Mr. Blinken, the purpose of his visit to the area was to secure U.S. backing for Angola and Kenya’s joint diplomatic negotiations. ‘to prevent further violence, to end the conflict (and) to preserve the territorial integrity of the DRC.’
As it contends with Rwanda over the M23, a predominant Congolese Tutsi organization that is one of several present in the turbulent east, the DRC is looking for external assistance.
The insurgents, who had been largely dormant for years, started fighting again late last year, taking the important nearby town of Bunagana in June, pressuring thousands of people to evacuate their dwellings.
According to specialists included in a 131-page report to the UN Security Council obtained by AFP last week, Rwandan forces have been militarily intervening within the DRC since November.
Additionally Rwandans ‘provided troop reinforcements” for specific M23 operations, the experts’ report said, “in particular when these aimed at seizing strategic towns and areas.’
Since the sudden surge of Rwandan Hutus charged with killing Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Kinshasa and Kigali have had tense relations.
Relations began to thaw after Mr. Tshisekedi took office in 2019 but the M23’s resurgence has revived tensions.
After Mr. Tshisekedi got into power in 2019, things started to heat up, however, the M23’s comeback has rekindled tensions.
The outfit also dubbed the “March 23 Movement,” originally gained notoriety in 2012 when it briefly took control of the city of Goma before being driven out by a joint Congolese-UN offensive.
From South Africa, where he said that the United States was expecting a “true partnership” with Africa and not competing with other nations for influence on the continent, Mr. Blinken traveled to Kinshasa.
According to a statement released by Mr. Tshisekedi’s office on Monday, during his discussion with Mr. Blinken at the presidential palace, Mr. Tshisekedi was to “raise the questions of strategic partnership” between the DRC and the US.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Mr. Blinken to denounce the M23 attacks and challenge Rwanda on its human rights record, which includes “brutal” repression of dissent, on the night of his tour through the DRC and Rwanda.
‘As in 2012, the M23 are committing war crimes against civilians,’ an HRW statement stated. ‘Witnesses described summary killings of at least 29 people, including children, in June and July… The U.S. should raise with Rwanda the reliable reports that it is again supporting the M23’s abusive conduct in eastern Congo.’
Many of the rebel forces that prowl the eastern DRC, like the M23, are left over from two regional crises that broke out in the late 20th century.
The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), which the Islamic State group refers to as its “Central Africa Province” affiliate, is one of the most violent gangs. In March 2021, the State Department added the ADF to its list of groups with ties to IS that are considered “terrorists.”