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US Diplomat Departs Rwanda After Talks on Regional Conflicts

  • Heather Murdock

America's top diplomat for Africa, Johnnie Carson (File Photo)

America's top diplomat for Africa, Johnnie Carson (File Photo)

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson departed Rwanda Saturday for Niger, the final stop on his three-nation African tour focused on security concerns and economic development.

After his final meeting in Kigali with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Johnnie Carson praised Rwanda's peacekeeping efforts in the Darfur region of Sudan where it is the largest contributor of troops, and its contribution of police to stabilization efforts in Haiti. He said his discussions with Mr. Kagame focused on regional conflicts.

"I had during the course of this meeting with the president the opportunity to talk about regional affairs and issues related to peacekeeping in Africa, some of the conflicts that continue to persist in the horn of Africa and in Eastern Congo. I also applauded the president on his continuing contributions for peacekeeping efforts in Darfur and his police in Haiti," he said.

In an interview with VOA Friday, Carson elaborated on regional security concerns. He said the recent announcement that the U.S. will send military advisers to Uganda to help support efforts to fight the Lord’s Resistance Army - a group known for brutal attacks on civilians, will help stability and benefit the region.

He said the U.S. has also been watching the Horn of Africa closely since Kenyan troops crossed into Somalia to confront al-Shabab militants who are believed to be behind a series of recent incursions into Kenyan territory. Carson said the U.S. supports the Kenyan initiative but is not providing any logistical help. "Kenyans have, as any country does, a right to defend its territory and its national sovereignty and a right to fight back against people who are threatening its people and its stability," he said.

Carson also voiced strong U.S. support for regional economic integration, urging reduced tariffs and the “free movement of labor and capital.” "I think the United States is strong because we are a unit of 50 states in one nation. Breaking down economic trade barriers will increase the prospects of economic growth and stimulate the possibility of economic development," he said.

This visit was Carson’s first to Kigali since assuming his post as Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in 2009. Prior to his stop in Rwanda the U.S. diplomat held talks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.