U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, said Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have agreed to begin talks to ease the tension over fighting in eastern Congo.
Blinken, speaking in Rwanda Thursday, said he also raised human rights concerns and the detention of U.S. permanent resident Paul Rusesabagina.
Blinken said the presidents of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Paul Kagame and Felix Tshisekedi, respectively, have agreed to open direct communications to end tensions in eastern Congo.
The two leaders have accused each other of supporting rebel groups in the chronically volatile region.
Blinken in his address warned that supporting and cooperating with armed groups will endanger local communities and threaten central Africa’s stability. He urged the two countries to be respectful of each other’s territory.
Blinken said both Kagame and Tshisekedi welcomed the United States’ support and committed to begin processes toward achieving stability.
“Both presidents have agreed to engage in direct talks with each other,” Blinken said. “They are both ready to resume the talks in the context of the Nairobi process with armed groups, and both welcomed the continued U.S. engagement in support of African-led mediation efforts.”
The Nairobi process was an initiative by the outgoing president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, that brought the heads of states of East African countries together to find lasting solutions to the disturbances in eastern Congo.
Blinken also addressed issues surrounding Rwanda’s detention of U.S. permanent resident Paul Rusesabagina, who is credited with saving hundreds of people during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda.”
Blinken said he had expressed his candid views to Kagame and will continue to engage on the matter.
“We have been clear about our concerns related to Paul Rusesabagina’s trial and conviction, particularly the lack of fair trial guarantees,” Blinken said. “We continue to urge the government to address concerns about the legal protections afforded to him in his case and establish safeguards to prevent similar outcomes in the future.”
Rusesabagina was taken to Rwanda under false pretences in 2020 and sentenced to 25 years in prison on terrorism charges last year.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said Thursday the government had broken no laws.
“This was done lawfully under both Rwandan and international laws,” Biruta said.
“Therefore, Rwanda will continue to abide by our laws and the decisions made by our judiciary, and we will request our partners to respect Rwanda’s sovereignty, Rwanda’s laws and its institutions.”
Blinken emphasized the U.S. commitments to be equal partners with Rwanda in advancing shared priorities, tackling global challenges and bettering the condition of the country’s citizens.