The EU-Rwanda Partnership and Its Impact on the DR Congo: A Call for Reevaluation

In a letter dated February 21, 2024, addressed to Mr. Nicolas Berlanga, the European Union’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the LUCHA (Lutte pour le Changement) movement has expressed profound indignation towards the European Union’s ongoing support for Rwanda amid escalating tensions and atrocities in Eastern DRC. This correspondence highlights the complexities surrounding international relations, economic partnerships, and their unintended consequences on regional peace and security.

The letter criticizes the European Union’s financial and military cooperation with Rwanda, particularly in light of a recent agreement aimed at bolstering Rwanda’s role in the raw materials value chain development, announced by Thierry Breton, the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner, on February 19, 2024. This agreement underscores Rwanda as a significant supplier of tantalum, tin, tungsten, gold, niobium, and lithium reserves. Furthermore, the EU’s continued military cooperation, including a recent €20 million funding to the Rwandan army, along with substantial financial support for Rwandan agriculture and multi-annual indicative programs, has been pointed out as evidence of the EU’s significant financial partnership with Rwanda.

The LUCHA’s letter vehemently opposes the unconditional partnership between the EU and Rwanda, accusing it of exacerbating the conflict and undermining peace and security in the DRC. It references various UN expert reports, NGOs, and local testimonies that implicate Rwandan military units in supporting the M23 rebellion in North Kivu since late 2021. These actions have led to serious human rights violations, including civilian murders, rapes, and the looting of both personal properties and mineral resources, contributing to a humanitarian crisis with millions of Congolese displaced.

The letter calls out the European Union for its apparent hypocrisy and inaction, despite clear evidence of Rwanda’s involvement in destabilizing the DRC and exploiting its resources. It argues that the EU’s financial and military support to Rwanda indirectly contributes to the ongoing aggression and conflict in the region.

LUCHA urges the EU to clarify its stance on the conflict in North Kivu and its relationship with Rwanda. It demands an immediate suspension of the Global Gateway partnership on mineral resources with Rwanda, fearing it could legitimize the exploitation of conflict minerals from the DRC. The movement also calls for conditioning EU development aid and military partnership with Rwanda on the withdrawal of Rwandan troops from the DRC.