U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Congo’s capital Kinshasa on Tuesday, continuing his three-nation tour of Africa.
After his arrival at N’Djili International Airport, Blinken met with President Felix Tshisekedi and members of the delegations of both countries.
The Secretary will meet with government leaders and civil society groups over his two-day visit to discuss partnerships for regional security, human rights issues, environmental conservation, climate change and bilateral trade and investment, according to the U.S. Department of State.
Blinken is expected to encourage solutions to the violence in eastern Congo where attacks have increased dramatically in the past month, with the resurgence of the M23 rebel group and ongoing violence by the myriad groups vying for control of the mineral-rich region.
This past weekend saw heavy attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces rebels that killed at least 20 civilians in the Ituri province. Many of the victims were buried Sunday.
Also in the Ituri province, presumed Zaire self-defense militiamen attacked the village of Damas on Saturday, killing 22 people and injuring 16 others who participated in a wake for their customary chiefs who died three weeks ago.
Increased insecurity in eastern Congo has sparked deadly protests against the U.N. peacekeeping force, as security worsens despite a year of emergency operations by the armies of Congo and Uganda.
Civilians in the east have also faced violence from jihadi rebels linked to the Islamic State group. More than 200,000 people have been displaced by recent fighting between Congolese troops and the M23 rebels.
Congo has accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels.
Blinken will travel later Wednesday to Rwanda, which is rejecting a report by United Nations experts saying they have “solid evidence” that members of Rwanda’s armed forces are conducting operations in eastern Congo in support of the M23 rebel group, exacerbating relations between the two countries which have been fraught for decades.
Earlier Tuesday Blinken met with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor for brief talks and to mark the country’s Women’s Day holiday.
The cordial meeting did not mask the differences between the U.S. and South Africa over Russia’s war in Ukraine. South Africa has remained neutral on the war and refused to criticize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine or conduct in the conflict.
On his Africa tour, human rights groups have urged Blinken to promote free and fair elections, respect for human rights and anti-corruption efforts.
His visit to Africa is seen by many as part of the contest between the Western powers and Russia for influence in Africa amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.