November 28, 2022

Blinken discusses peace and stability in Ethiopia and DRC with President Ruto of Kenya

Blinken and Ruto

United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with President William Ruto of Kenya on Sunday, November 13, and both leaders discussed efforts to bring peace and stability to northern Ethiopia and astern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Kenyan President William Ruto on November 13 to discuss ongoing efforts to bring peace to eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and northern Ethiopia,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a brief statement on Tuesday morning. “The Secretary expressed appreciation for Kenya’s continued leadership in addressing regional security challenges and both confirmed they would continue to coordinate shared efforts.”

Peace and stability in northern Ethiopia:

On Saturday, the Biden administration said that while it welcomes the signing of a peace deal by the Ethiopian federal government and Tigrayan authorities in South Africa on November 2 and the commitments made in Kenya on November 12 to cease hostilities and provide unhindered humanitarian access to all Ethiopians in need, it’s time to act.

“We welcome the commitment to unhindered humanitarian access and clarification of cessation of hostilities implementing arrangements articulated in the Declaration of the Senior Commanders Meeting on the Implementation of the Ethiopia Permanent Cessation of Hostilities Agreement announced today in Nairobi,” United States Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement received by Today News Africa. “As the parties implement the commitments they made in the November 2 agreement and today’s declaration, they must honor the cessation of hostilities, expedite unhindered humanitarian assistance to all in need, protect all civilians, deliver restoration of basic services throughout northern Ethiopia, and begin investigation of and accountability for human rights abuses.”

In addition to more concretely specifying the implementation of the November 2 agreement signed in Pretoria, the parties further committed to cooperate and facilitate the delivery of unhindered humanitarian access in today’s agreement.

“We welcome the humanitarian access permissions that have already been restored as well as the firm commitments for humanitarian assistance to flow to the Tigray Region and the affected areas of the Afar and Amhara Regions to address the needs of the most vulnerable. The United States is the largest supporter of humanitarian aid to Ethiopia, and we will continue to deliver to those most in need,” Price said.

He added, “We commend the parties for continuing to deliver on their commitments and applaud the determined efforts of AU High Representative former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta who spearheaded this effort in Nairobi, the government of Kenya for hosting, and the African Union for its leadership.

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“The United States will continue to support the implementation of the November 2 agreement and efforts to achieve a lasting peace. Work remains, but progress is promising and gives the Ethiopian people reason for hope.”

Peace and stability in eastern DRC:

On November 1, the United States condemned the resumption of hostilities fighting between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, saying that it has caused significant human suffering and death.

The U.S., however, put the blame on the March 23 Movement (M23) armed group in the DRC, referring to it as “the U.S.- and UN-sanctioned M23 armed group,” and calling “on all actors in the region to stop any support or cooperation with M23 or other non-state armed groups.”

“The United States strongly condemns the resumption of fighting by the March 23 Movement (M23) armed group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  The resumption of hostilities since October 20 has caused significant human suffering, including deaths and injuries among civilians and significant numbers of newly displaced persons,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a statement.

Price added, “The United States calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities and respect for human rights and international humanitarian law.  We call for the U.S.- and UN-sanctioned M23 armed group to withdraw from its positions, disarm, and rejoin the Inter-Congolese dialogue (Nairobi process) in preparation for disarmament, demobilization, and community reintegration offered by the Government of the DRC.

“We call on all actors in the region to stop any support or cooperation with M23 or other non-state armed groups.  We remain deeply alarmed by the increase in hate speech and urge a halt to violent rhetoric.  We also reiterate that involvement in planning, directing, sponsoring or conducting attacks against UN peacekeepers constitutes a basis for sanctions designations pursuant to United Nations Security Council resolutions.

“We urge an  immediate resumption of the Nairobi Process and of the Luanda trilateral mediation process to find a lasting resolution.  All state parties of the East African Community (EAC) and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) must uphold the principles agreed through the East African Heads of State Conclave and the Luanda mediation Process. Finally, we express our strong support for the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC.”

The proxy war between Rwanda and DRC has been raging for months and has left thousands of people dead and many displaced. United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken tried to bring all parties together when he visited both countries in August to announce the new U.S. policy for Africa. And it seemed to have worked. But now, fighting has resumed and civilians are at risk once again.

In June, Human Rights Watch called on Congolese security forces and the M23 armed group in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to minimize harm to civilians during renewed fighting, noting that past fighting between government forces and the rebels resulted in widespread abuses against the civilian population and prolonged humanitarian crises.  

Armed conflict in North Kivu province since May 22, 2022 has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, as M23 rebels launched their biggest offensive against government troops in a decade. On May 25, heavy fighting reached the outskirts of the provincial capital, Goma. The fighting in eastern Congo is bound by international humanitarian law, including Common Article 3 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which prohibit summary execution, rape, torture, forced recruitment, and other abuses, the organization said.

“The M23 armed group was responsible for countless atrocities in the past and the renewed fighting in North Kivu raises grave concerns about the danger to civilians in the area,” said Thomas Fessy, senior Congo researcher at Human Rights Watch. “All parties, including rebel forces, security forces of Congo and its neighbors, and United Nations peacekeepers, are obligated under international law to spare civilians.”

Since hostilities resumed, the governments of Rwanda and Congo have exchanged accusations about the fighting.  Rwanda said that the Congolese army fired rockets onto its territory, “injuring several civilians and damaging property.” Congo alleged that the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) was actively fighting alongside M23. 

Rwanda has alleged that the Congolese army was collaborating with the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR), a largely Rwandan Hutu armed group operating in Congo, some of whose members took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and had attacked Rwandan forces and “kidnapped two of its soldiers while on patrol” along the border. On May 29, a Congolese military spokesman said it was holding two Rwandan soldiers “captured by the population.”  

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