Secretary Blinken and Dr Biruta said they were in favour of Nairobi and Luanda dialogues to address the situation between Rwanda and DRC.
Rwanda and the United States say they will continue to back dialogue and peaceful means to resolve the longstanding conflict in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The two countries reiterated their position during the visit of the U.S Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken, who arrived in Rwanda on Wednesday for a two-day visit during which the U.S official met and held talks with President Paul Kagame on a number of issues, including bilateral ties between the two countries.
On Thursday, Secretary Blinken and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Dr. Vincent Biruta, addressed a press conference which touched on a number of issues including the conflict in DRC, the conviction of Paul Rusesabagina and the United Nations group of experts report on DRC, among others.
Dr. Biruta said that during their meeting, they exchanged on issues of human rights and agreed to continue working together towards a better understanding of Rwanda’s historical and cultural context, how far Rwanda has come in the last 28 years, as well as the need for mutual respect, when addressing issues of concern.
On DRC, Dr. Biruta said that Rwanda is not the cause of insecurity in DRC and anyone looking at it that way is disregarding the actual cause of conflict, which is the existence of armed groups, including FDLR, which threatens Rwanda’s security.
“We also discussed insecurity in Eastern DRC, the very real consequences for Rwanda, and reaffirmed our support to regional efforts including the Nairobi and Luanda initiatives, towards peace and stability,”
“We agree on the need to eradicate all irregular armed groups operating in Eastern DRC, including the FDLR and its factions. We noted the resurgence of hate speech, public incitement and genocidal ideology in DRC,” Dr. Biruta said.
Minister Biruta said that during the talks Rwanda reaffirmed the importance of respect of territorial integrity by all the countries in the region, adding that the cause of the current situation in DRC should be looked at beyond the M23 insurgence.
On his part, Secretary Blinken said that prior to addressing the media he met with President Kagame with whom he had ‘candid and respectful discussions’ during which he raised issues of U.S concern, including ‘credible reports’ indicating that Rwanda continues to support the M23 Rebel group and has its own forces inside the DRC.
“We recognize that Rwanda has security concerns of its own, including reports of cooperation between the Congolese military and the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the FDLR, an armed group,”
“My message to both President Tshisekedi and President Kagame this week has been the same. Any support or cooperation with any armed group in eastern DRC endangers local communities and regional stability,”
“Every country in the region must respect the territorial Integrity of the others, the United States has the same message for all neighbouring countries,” Blinken said.
Call for dialogue
Blinken said that both Presidents have agreed to engage in direct talks with each other and are both ready to resume the talks in the context of the Nairobi Process with the armed groups and both welcome the continued U.S engagement in support of African-led mediation efforts.
“We know that Rwandans are also alarmed justifiably by the increase in hate speech in the DRC targeting Rwandaphones. The United States will continue to condemn such unacceptable and dangerous rhetoric,”
Secretary Blinken said the U.S backs Nairobi and Luanda processes to address the issues including the problem of armed groups in eastern Congo.
“These initiatives are crucial for getting the actors to resolve their differences peacefully through diplomacy rather than through violence and to address the underlying drivers of the conflict,” Blinken said.
Rusesabagina & human rights
Blinken said that the discussions touched on human rights concerns the U.S has and the issue of Paul Rusesabagina, who is currently serving 25 years in prison after he was found guilty on terror-related charges.
He pointed out that he discussed the case of Rusesabagina, a permanent resident of the U.S, with President Kagame and underscored their concerns about what they say is the lack of fair trial. The U.S says Rusesabagina was wrongfully detained.
“I have an opportunity to discuss this matter with President Kagame this morning, I’m not going to get into specifics but we’ll continue to engage on it,” Blinken said.
Dr. Biruta on the other hand said that as far as the Rwandan government is concerned, Rusesabagina is a Rwandan citizen and was legally arrested and convicted on crimes committed on Rwandan soil.
“As far as the Government of Rwanda is concerned, Paul Rusesabagina is a Rwandan citizen. He was arrested, tried and convicted along with 20 others accomplices for serious crimes committed against Rwandan citizens, which he committed while residing in the United States,”
“This was done lawfully under both Rwandan and international laws. Therefore, Rwanda will continue to abide by our laws and decisions made by our Judiciary and we request our partners to respect Rwanda’s sovereignty, Rwanda’s laws and institutions,” Dr. Biruta said.