US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Thursday on Rwanda to use its influence to rein in rebels advancing in the Democratic Republic of Congo but voiced guarded hope for peace.
At a summit of African leaders in Washington, Blinken met DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi, who voiced alarm over Rwanda, but did not meet Rwandan President Paul Kagame who indicated he would have liked higher-level US meetings.
Blinken played down the lack of talks with Kagame, noting that he recently spoke to him by telephone, but made clear the United States was expecting action from Rwanda on the M23 rebels in the eastern DRC.
If an agreement negotiated by Angola is implemented, “I think that offers tremendous promise for ending the current conflict and hopefully leading to more durable stability in the eastern DRC,” Blinken told reporters.
“A big part of that is M23 generally pulling back and there we are looking to Rwanda to use its influence with M23 to encourage that,” Blinken said.
He called on “all sides” to use their influence including on the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a mainly Hutu group that includes actors involved in the 1994 Rwanda genocide against the Tutsis.
The presence of Hutus accused of genocide involvement has been an impediment for years in relations between the DRC and Rwanda.
M23 rebels, a mostly Congolese Tutsi group, resumed fighting in late 2021 after accusing the DRC of failing to honor an agreement to integrate its fighters into the army.
The insurgents have made strong gains in recent months, with the United States saying that accusations of Rwandan support are credible.
Kagame on the sidelines of the summit Wednesday said that the rebellion in the neighboring country was not caused by Rwanda and “is not Rwanda’s problem.”