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Blinken in Kigali to discuss DRC tensions, human rights

Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives at Kigali International Airport in Kigali, Rwanda, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.   -  
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Andrew Harnik/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved


The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken landed in Kigali, Rwanda, late Wednesday. His third and final stop in Africa will see him meet with Rwandan president Paul Kagame Thursday.

Blinken is expected to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial before holding a press conference with Foreign minister, Vincent Biruta and meeting with civil society representatives.

Wednesday morning, the United States top diplomat was in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

There he said the US "backed African-led mediation efforts" in the DRC-Rwanda crisis, adding the United States "followed the efforts and were engaged in it". Blinken told reporters in Kinshasa on Tuesday evening that the United States had serious concerns about "credible reports" of Rwandan backing of the M23 -- and promised that Washington was not "turning a blind eye".

He is therefore expected to touch on this key issue during his Rwandan trip. 

"Hotel Rwanda" hero

He should also discuss the case of Rwandan citzen and Creen card owener, Paul Rusesabagina. 

Ahead of his African tour, Blinken told RFI, it was "a priority" of his "to try to work towards the return to the United States" of all US citizens and Green cards owners "unjustly" detained all over the world.

Rwanda’s Court of Appeal upheld - in April - a 25-year prison term against "Hotel Rwanda" hero, who was convicted last year on charges of "terrorism". The court however rejected a prosecution appeal to increase the penalty to life.

Paul Rusesabagina had worked as the manager of a hotel in Kigali and helped shelter Hutu and Tutsi refugees there during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

He was accused of supporting the National Liberation Front (FLN) an armed wing of his opposition political platform Rwanda Movement for Democratic Change (MRCD), with the group claiming some responsibility for attacks in 2018 and 2019 in which nine Rwandans died. But Rusesabagina denies responsibility.

The 67 year old was arrested in August 2020 after what he described by his relative as a kidnapping from Dubai by Rwandan authorities.

In the DRC, Blinken discussed the environment and combating corruption with the Congolese Prime minister and answered reporters' questions with DRC's minister of Foreign affairs.

The Secretary of State also hosted guests including Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Denis Mukwege and visited an election transparency hackathon event at the Kinshasa Digital Academy.

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