Duda and Kagame Forge Defense Pact Amidst DRC Tensions

On February 6, 2024, Polish President Andrzej Duda, accompanied by his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda, arrived in Rwanda for an official work visit. The couple landed in Kigali, where they were received by Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Vincent Biruta. This visit marked an important engagement between Poland and Rwanda, highlighting a series of diplomatic and economic discussions aimed at strengthening bilateral relations.

During his stay, President Duda, having traveled from Kenya, engaged in significant discussions with his Rwandan counterpart, President Paul Kagame. A notable event in Duda’s itinerary was his participation in a conference on Wednesday, dedicated to Polish investment in Rwanda. Here, President Duda delivered a speech to the attendees, emphasizing the potential for economic cooperation between the two nations.

Additionally, President Duda visited the LuNa Smelter, a key industrial site in Rwanda, further solidifying the economic ties between the two countries. His visit was punctuated with a dinner hosted by President Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame.

The culmination of Duda’s visit was the announcement of two agreements between Rwanda and Poland, focusing on high technology and environmental protection. These agreements were highlighted during a joint press conference with President Kagame, showcasing the depth of cooperation in various sectors including energy, urban infrastructure, agriculture, construction, and cybersecurity.

Behind the scenes, the discussions took a more strategic tone, with Presidents Kagame and Duda deliberating on defense cooperation. According to investigative journalist Mwangi Maina, this bold dialogue resulted in Warsaw agreeing to provide Kigali with defense support in the event of a military attack. This commitment underscores the strengthening military and strategic partnership between the two nations, although President Kagame chose to focus public attention on the broader spectrum of bilateral issues.

Polish defense entities have gradually established a robust presence in the Rwandan market, finalizing deals involving the sale of rifles, anti-drone radar, and helicopter maintenance services. This engagement comes at a time when Rwanda faces security challenges, particularly from the military offensive threats posed by Kinshasa. The acquisition of anti-aircraft missile systems by Kigali, in response to the deployment of CH-4 combat drones by the Congolese army, illustrates the escalating military tensions in the region.

The agreement between Poland and Rwanda, however, has drawn criticism from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On February 9, 2024, the DRC’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement condemning the military support accord, which it views as an unjust aggression that bolsters Rwanda’s capacity to harm Congolese citizens. This stance reflects the complex geopolitical dynamics in the region, with the DRC accusing Poland of a double-standard approach, having previously supported a UN resolution condemning Rwanda for its alleged aggression and support of M23 rebels in Congo.

In light of these developments, the DRC has expressed its reservations and warned of potential consequences, highlighting the delicate balance of international relations and the challenges of navigating between diplomatic support and regional security concerns.