The US is “concerned” with the situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Washington is working with the African mediation team on a long-term solution to the conflict, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.
Mr Blinken, who arrived in Kinshasa on Tuesday, promised to speak with Rwandan President Paul Kagame over Kigali’s alleged support for the M23 rebels in eastern DRC after he was questioned on the US stance.
Blinken had earlier discussed the conflict with DRC President Félix Tshisekedi and Foreign Minister Christophe Lutundula in Kinshasa on Tuesday afternoon.
Rwanda has consistently denied involvement in the conflict in eastern DRC.
“The United States is closely monitoring the situation in eastern DRC and we support the mediation efforts underway in Nairobi and Luanda to prevent the conflict from becoming bogged down,” Blinken said.
He was referring to an initiative under the East African Community, led by Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta to combat rebel groups that do not want to negotiate, while encouraging peace talks between those willing. The government of Angola, too, has been mediating a tiff between Rwanda and DRC over counter allegations of rebel support.
Blinken stressed the need to find a diplomatic solution to prevent escalation of violence.
“We need to find a lasting solution to this conflict,” he said.
Blinken was received at the N’djili International Airport on Tuesday by Mr Lutundula and met with President Tshisekedi later at the presidential palace in Kinshasa. They exchanged views on security issues and other issues of concern, an official dispatch said.
Blinken is on an African tour that began in South Africa and will end in Rwanda, discussing security, climate change and economic relations. He left the DRC late Wednesday for Kigali.
In the DRC, Mr Lutundula told a joint press conference with Blinken that they also discussed military cooperation, economic and financial issues, environmental issues, exploitation of natural resources, democracy and climate challenges. But security issues were the most prominent issue.
Blinken on Tuesday suggested that the rebels should stop attacking civilians and military bases in eastern DRC. “All parties must respect the territorial integrity of the DRC,” he added.
The Democratic Republic of Congo accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels in the war in North Kivu, eastern Congo, which Rwanda denies. But Kigali in turn accuses Congo of aiding Rwandan rebels who have been in eastern DRC since 1994 after the Genocide against the Tutsi.
A leaked UN expert report last week said it had confirmed that Rwanda is providing military support to the M23 rebels in the capture of strategic cities in Congo. Kigali termed the document a diversion.
DR Congo and Rwanda had been on the verge of a diplomatic breakdown until Angolan President Joao Lourenço invited the two leaders to Luanda where they pledged to resume diplomatic talks.
In the midst of their tiff, however, the DRC suspended its trade agreements with Rwanda.