Blinken commends Rwanda moves to de-escalate with DR Congo

Congo Blinken commends Rwanda moves to de-escalate with DR Congo
JAN 16, 2024 LISTEN

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday praised Rwanda's efforts to reduce tensions with the Democratic Republic of Congo even as a new border clash highlighted the troubled ties.

Meeting Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Blinken promised US support for regional diplomacy to end violence in eastern DRC.

But as Blinken spoke, Rwanda's military said it had shot dead a Congolese "soldier" and arrested two others after they crossed the border early Tuesday.

"We are committed to doing everything we can to support the efforts that are being made, including by Angola, by Kenya, to support a peaceful resolution to differences and avoiding conflict in the eastern DRC," Blinken told Kagame as they opened their meeting.

"We very much appreciate the work that's been done, especially over the last couple of months, and your leadership in trying to find a positive, peaceful way forward," Blinken said.

The meeting is the latest sign of US hopes for managing the conflict by working with Kagame, who has faced US criticism in the past.

US intelligence chief Avril Haines said in November after a visit to both countries that Kagame and DRC President Felix Tshisekedi had agreed on steps to de-escalate.

M23 rebels have wreaked havoc in the DRC, last year seizing much of North Kivu province.

Kinshasa accuses Rwanda of supporting the the M23 rebels, who are primarily Tutsis, an assertion previously backed by Blinken.

Kagame in turn has frequently demanded action against Hutu fighters in the DRC linked to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda against Tutsis.

The United States resolved another longstanding issue with Kagame last year when Kagame pardoned Paul Rusesabagina, whose activities during the genocide inspired the "Hotel Rwanda" movie but who became one of the president's critics.

Rusesabagina, who now lives in the United States, had been arrested when a plane he believed was bound for Burundi landed in Rwanda, in what his family called a kidnapping.

There are frequent troubles along the Rwanda-DRC border.

Rwanda's military said in a statement that three DRC "soldiers" entered Rubavu district, close to the main eastern DRC city of Goma, early Tuesday. It said one DRC soldier was killed after he fired at a Rwandan patrol.