On the EU-Rwanda Protocol signed on 19 February 2024


“The European Union has decided to suspend funding for new development projects in Rwanda, pending clarification of Kigali’s involvement in the conflict raging in eastern Congo. This follows the publication of a report last April in which UN experts denounced the support given by Paul Kagame’s government to the new M23 rebel group,” wrote the Missionary International Service News Agency (MISNA) on 26 September 2012.

Twelve years later, eastern Congo is facing the same challenge, denounced by the same UN source, but the EU’s attitude is quite different. On 19 February, it signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Kigali “to promote the development of sustainable and resilient value chains for critical raw materials”, i.e. the strategic minerals coveted in this age of the so-called green economy.

The agreement will see the mobilisation of funds for Rwanda to build the necessary infrastructure. “The country is a major global player in tantalum mining. It also produces tin, tungsten, gold and niobium, and has reserves of lithium and rare earths,” the document says. Its language is meant to express a strong intention to respect legality, in line with the traceability standards that Europe itself has set for 2021.

It is a shame, though, that the EU is investing in a country that is not rich in these minerals, a country that has only become an important exporter thanks to the war that it has been waging in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996, again through clandestine movements that have taken on the name of M23 in recent years.

For years, with the support of corrupt officials at various levels, the precious minerals gold, coltan and rare earths have been flowing from eastern Congo to Rwanda and other neighbouring countries to the east… Complicity at the borders, cunning of various kinds, but now they flow openly, thanks to the territories occupied by M23-Rwanda on the other side of the border. This is at the cost of deaths, violence of all kinds, the theft of the property of a population whose only crime is to live in a coveted territory, and more than a million displaced persons – in the east alone – who survive miserably and die in makeshift huts in the middle of the rainy season.

Just when, after many denunciations, the world was beginning to pay attention to this two-year-old conflict, just when the Congolese people had barely swallowed the news that the EU was going to give the Rwandan regime 20 million euros at the end of 2022 to support its forces in Mozambique, the news of this agreement came like a bolt from the blue.

After all, the agreement had already been announced in the joint declaration signed by Rwanda and the European Investment Bank on 19 December on “a strategic alliance aimed at strengthening investment in critical commodity value chains”.

If the aim of the 19 February agreement, as stated by the European Parliament in response to the many criticisms that have emerged, is to “increase traceability and transparency and strengthen the fight against the illegal trade in minerals”, would it not be more appropriate to sanction Rwanda than to enter into agreements with it on the very fruits of the robbery that is taking place?

Echoing the many voices that have been raised against this agreement, both by the authorities, Congolese citizens, European countries such as Belgium, and by Members of the European Parliament, we, the Italian ‘Together for Peace in Congo’ Committee, also urge the European Union to cancel this agreement to contribute to peace in the region. We believe that only a fair and impartial attitude can promote peaceful coexistence in the African Great Lakes region.

We also call on the Union to consider carefully the internal situation in Rwanda, a country where there is a very high level of repressed suffering. The tragedies of the past, which the Rwandan regime will soon commemorate on the 30th anniversary of the genocide, must not blind us to what is now openly denounced by many serious investigations and by the UN itself since its mapping report of October 2010.

Rome 7 March 2024

On the cover photo, four bullets on the geographical map of Democratic Republic of Congo ©MattiaATH/Shutterstock.com


The first initiative’s promoters:

“Together: For Peace in Congo”, a network of people and associations:

Alessandro De Filippo
Faustin Ghaima
Gianni Bonotto
Marina Piccone
Piero Gugliotta

C.A.V.A. Coordinamento delle Associazioni della Vallagarina per l’Africa
Comitato per la Promozione e la Protezione dei diritti umani
Rete Pace per il Congo
Simama Associazione di volontariato
Tribù del mondo associazione
Associazione Tumaini un ponte di solidarietà
Peace Walking Man foundation

Father Alessandro Zanotelli
Marcia dei bruchi
Forum trentino per la pace ed i diritti umani
Don Giovanni Piumatti
Giusy Baioni
Associazione 46° Parallelo / Atlante delle Guerre e dei Conflitti del Mondo
Atlas of Wars

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