US Secretary of State Blinken to visit DRC, Rwanda

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is to make a state visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.

The senior official in Joe Biden’s administration will be in Kinshasa from August 9.

He will stay in Congo until August 10. After his Congolese stop, the Secretary of State will then travel to Rwanda, where he will meet with the authorities in Kigali, after having met with those of the DRC.

Blinken’s trip to Africa is primarily a message from the United States of America to the African continent, which remains an important geostrategic player at a time when other powers are increasingly eyeing the continent.

The US administration has already indicated that among the topics on the agenda for Antony Blinken’s trip to Africa are the challenges of “the effects of climate change, food insecurity and global pandemics, or shaping the technological and economic future”.

Blinken’s visit comes as the DRC has committed to auctioning off 30 oil and gas blocks. This project is widely opposed by environmental NGOs.

According to Greenpeace, “This would be an unmitigated disaster for the climate, biodiversity and local people”.

After his DRC leg, Blinken will fly to Rwanda, where Kinshasa and Kigali have come close to a diplomatic rift.

The DRC has suspended trade agreements with its neighbour, accusing it of supporting the M23 rebels with Rwandan Defence Force soldiers fighting alongside Congolese rebels in North Kivu, according to Congolese authorities.

Rwanda’s role

The US diplomat plans to raise this thorny issue with the Rwandan leadership, who was notified in July of Rwanda’s role in the eastern provinces of Congo-Kinshasa through a letter sent to Antony Blinken on July 20 this year by US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Robert Menendez.

In his letter, Menendez wrote: “As you will recall, in the late 1990s, Rwanda and Uganda invaded the DRC, sparking a regional war that, according to the International Rescue Committee, resulted in up to 5.4 million deaths between 1998 and 2007 due to the conflict and the resulting humanitarian crisis. In 2012, Rwanda again sought to weaken the DRC by supporting the M23 rebels who captured the eastern DRC city of Goma, killing hundreds of civilians and displacing more than 100,000 people. Ten years later, in 2022, Rwanda again sent troops to the DRC border and reactivated the M23, a militia responsible for killing Congolese civilians, Congolese troops and UN peacekeepers”.

The US Secretary of State will also discuss democracy and human rights issues, including transnational repression, limiting space for dissent and political opposition, and the detention of US permanent resident Paul Rusesabagina.

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