US Secretary of State Blinken arrives in Rwanda to discuss tensions with DRC, human rights

US Secretary of State Blinken arrives in Rwanda to discuss tensions with DRC, human rights

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is due to hold talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame amid calls from campaigners to pressure Kigali over its human rights record and alleged support of M23 rebels in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Blinken arrived in Rwanda late Wednesday – the final stop of a three-nation trip to Africa – hot on the heels of a visit to the continent by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. 

The US diplomat has sought to woo African nations, which have largely steered clear of backing Washington against Moscow in the Ukraine war, by calling for an “equal” partnership with the continent.

His visit comes after an unpublished independent investigation for the UN has reported that Rwandan troops had attacked soldiers inside the DRC and aided M23 rebels, a primarily Tutsi rebel group. The M23 has captured swathes of territory in eastern DRC in recent months, causing a spike in tensions between Kigali and Kinshasa, which has repeatedly accused Kagame’s government of backing the notorious militia.

In the DRC on Tuesday, Blinken said the United States was “very concerned by credible reports that Rwanda has supported the M23,” adding that he would discuss the issue with Kagame, whose government has consistently denied the claims.

Pressure for release of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ hero

In a statement released Monday, Human Rights Watch called on Blinken to “urgently signal that there will be consequences for the government’s repression and abuse in Rwanda and beyond its borders”.

Blinken is also facing calls to press for the release of Paul Rusesabagina, the “Hotel Rwanda” hero who is credited with saving hundreds of lives during the 1994 genocide.

A US permanent resident, Rusesabagina is a fierce critic of Kagame and was sentenced to a 25-year prison term last year on terrorism charges after a plane he believed was bound for Burundi landed in Kigali in August 2020. – RFI

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