DRC irked by EU-Rwanda mining agreement

On 22 February 2024 at 02:01

The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has officially expressed its dissatisfaction with the recent mining agreement signed between the European Union (EU) and Rwanda.

An EU press statement revealed that the agreement entails joint efforts to improve the mining supply chain, collaborate on mineral processing to enhance value, and tackle the issue of illegal mineral trading by ensuring traceability right from the point of extraction.

The commitment also covers the promotion of eco-friendly mining practices and the pursuit of necessary funding to develop infrastructure supporting mineral extraction.

Both Rwanda and the EU agreed to invest in research, knowledge sharing, and the application of technology in the mining sector, covering extraction and processing stages.

The agreement also promises more educational opportunities for mining sector workers, especially in mineral processing, aiming to draw more investment to Rwanda. A plan to implement this agreement is expected to be ready within six months of its signing.

This agreement has been strongly criticized by Kinshasa, which sees it as a direct threat to its sovereignty and natural resources.

According to a statement from the Deputy Prime Minister and Congolese Foreign Minister, Christophe Lutundula, this agreement is perceived as an attempt by the EU to legitimize and encourage what the DRC considers to be the plundering of its minerals by Rwanda.

Kinshasa’s main concern lies in the fact that Rwanda does not have strategic minerals such as coltan, cobalt, lithium, or niobium in its subsoil, which are highly sought after in the global market.

The DRC recalls commitments made by the European Union during the DRC-EU political dialogue held in Kinshasa in October 2020, which emphasized the importance of combating the illegal exploitation of minerals, including through the implementation of the European regulation on conflict minerals.

The Congolese government sees this agreement as a blatant contradiction with these commitments, undermining efforts to combat the illicit exploitation of natural resources in the region.

Minister Lutundula has therefore demanded explanations from European authorities, highlighting the "ambiguous behavior" of the EU which, on one hand, claims to want to contribute to resolving the crisis in the eastern DRC and fight against the illegal exploitation of Congolese natural resources, and on the other hand, signs an agreement with Rwanda which, according to Kinshasa, could facilitate this same illegal exploitation.

The agreement was signed by Dr. Vincent Biruta, Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and Jutta Urpilainen, the EU Commissioner for International Partnerships.
The Deputy Prime Minister and Congolese Foreign Minister, Christophe Lutundula.