Accessibility links

Breaking News

Blinken Arrives in Congo

FILE - Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Democratic Republic of Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi at Cite de l'OUA in Kinshasa, Congo, Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to the Democratic Republic of Congo capital, Kinshasa, Tuesday to continue his three-nation tour of Africa.

During his two-day visit, Blinken will meet with Congolese government leaders and civil society groups to discuss partnerships for regional security, human rights issues, environmental conservation, climate change and bilateral trade and investment, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Blinken is expected to encourage solutions to the violence in eastern Congo where attacks have increased dramatically in the past month with the resurgence of the M23 rebel group and ongoing violence by many militia groups vying for the mineral-rich region.

Increased insecurity in eastern Congo has sparked deadly protests against the U.N. peacekeeping force there.

Security has worsened in eastern Congo despite a year of emergency operations by the armies of Congo and Uganda. Civilians in the east have also faced violence from jihadi rebels linked to the Islamic State group. More than 200,000 people have been displaced by recent fighting between Congolese troops and the M23 rebels.

Congo has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels.

Blinken will travel later Wednesday to Rwanda, which is rejecting a report by United Nations experts saying they have “solid evidence” that members of Rwanda’s armed forces are conducting operations in eastern Congo in support of the M23 rebel group.

Rwanda accuses Congo of collaborating with another rebel group, the FDLR, and said regional security can’t be achieved until that issue is addressed. Congo has denied supporting the group. Relations between Congo and its neighbor Rwanda have been fraught for decades.

A meeting between Rwandan President Paul Kagame and Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi in Angola on July 6 produced a statement calling for a return to normal diplomatic relations, a cessation of hostilities, and the “immediate and unconditional withdrawal” of the M23 from its positions in eastern Congo.

Earlier Tuesday Blinken met with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor for brief talks and to mark the country’s Women’s Day holiday.

The U.S. and South Africa differ on Russia’s war in Ukraine with South Africa remaining neutral on the war and refusing to criticize Russia.

In South Africa, Blinken launched the new U.S. strategy for engaging with sub-Saharan Africa.

Outlining the strategy in a speech in Pretoria on Monday, he said it was rooted in recognizing sub-Saharan countries as equal partners and emphasized the region’s role as a “major geopolitical force.”

On his Africa tour, human rights groups have urged Blinken to promote free and fair elections, respect for human rights and anti-corruption efforts.

His visit to Africa is seen by many as part of the contest between the Western powers and Russia for influence in Africa amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.