Rwanda-DRC: The EU’s Intriguing Approach

On February 20, 2024, in Kigali, an important meeting took place, the Rwandan Minister of Defence, Juvenal Marizamunda, and the Chief of Defence Staff, General Mubarakh Muganga, welcomed an EU delegation led by Cosmin Dobran, Director for Peace, Partnerships, and Crisis Management at the European External Action Service. The delegation also included the EU Ambassador to Rwanda, Belen Calvo Uyarra, marking a step forward in the dialogue between the EU and Rwanda.

Concurrently, Nicolas Berlanga, the EU Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), shared insights on social media regarding his meeting with DRC’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Lutundula. Berlanga’s post highlighted the EU’s stance on the crisis in Eastern DRC, condemning Rwanda’s alleged support for the M23 rebel group and military operations in the DRC. This stance reaffirms the EU’s July 2023 declaration and its commitment to combating illicit mineral trafficking and enhancing transparency in mineral value chains. A notable mention was the memorandum of understanding signed in October 2023 between the DRC and the EU, aiming to collaborate on critical minerals, which is important for both parties’ interests in securing sustainable value chains and addressing security challenges in the region.

Furthermore, on February 19, 2024, Brussels became the backdrop for another crucial development. The EU and Rwanda formalized their partnership by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). This agreement, represented by EU Commissioner for International Partnerships Jutta Urpilainen and Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta, signifies a milestone in efforts to promote sustainable development and strengthen value chains across Africa.

These series of engagements by the EU in Rwanda and the DRC highlight the complex dynamics and the EU’s balanced approach to supporting both nations amid escalating tensions in the Great Lakes region. The EU’s role is intricate, as it navigates accusations against Rwanda of exploiting the DRC’s mineral resources and backing the M23, which controls valuable mineral-rich territories in Eastern DRC. Observers question how the EU will differentiate between minerals mined in Rwanda and those extracted from M23-controlled areas in collaboration with Rwandan forces in the DRC.

As the EU extends its influence and resources, its actions are closely watched by international observers, regional stakeholders, and the local populations affected by these complex geopolitical issues.