United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda to ease escalating border tensions.
Blinken’s plea comes in response to the surge in conflict that has resulted in the displacement of nearly 7 million individuals.
The U.S. secretary of state, engaging in separate dialogues with Presidents Felix Tshisekedi of Congo and Paul Kagame of Rwanda, emphasized the urgent need for a peaceful resolution to the “volatile situation and worsening humanitarian crisis along the border,” as reported by the State Department.
The State Department further relayed Blinken’s push for a diplomatic approach to resolve the ongoing strife, writing, “The Secretary advocated for a diplomatic solution to the tensions between the two countries and urged each side to take measures to de-escalate the situation, including removing troops from the border.”
Eastern Congo has seen a severe uptick in violence, particularly in the regions of Ituri, North and South Kivu, and Tanganyika, due to clashes involving M23 insurgents and forces loyal to the Congolese government.
Accusations are widespread, with the Congolese authorities alleging Rwandan support for the M23 rebels, a claim substantiated by United Nations specialists who report compelling evidence of Rwandan military involvement.
In a rebuttal, Rwanda has dismissed these claims, instead accusing Congolese forces of bombing Rwandan villages near the border.
The scale of the crisis, characterized by widespread internal displacement, has been termed the largest in the world by the International Organization for Migration.
The humanitarian impact is grim, with thousands of civilians dead, millions displaced, and hundreds of thousands seeking refuge in Uganda.
Fabien Sambussy, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Congo, highlighted the longstanding suffering of the Congolese people amidst “a storm of crises,” noting that “The most recent escalation of the conflict has uprooted more people in less time like rarely seen before.”
With presidential elections looming in Congo, where President Tshisekedi is vying for reelection, there’s growing concern that the intensifying violence in the east could cast a shadow over the electoral process.