Statement of Dr. Denis Mukwege on the Recent EU-Rwanda Agreement on Conflict Minerals

With the memorandum of understanding signed on February 19 between the European Union (EU) and Rwanda to promote the development of “sustainable” and “resilient” value chains for raw materials, also known as conflict or blood minerals, the European executive is not only reaching the height of cynicism in terms of geostrategy, but is once again illustrating a policy of double standards that undermines the credibility of international institutions.

The conflict that has been going on in the east of the DRC for almost 30 years — the deadliest since the World War II — is mainly economic, and the link between the exploitation and illegal trade in minerals is recognized as a root cause of violence and serious human rights violations. Rwanda’s involvement in the destabilization of the DRC, the plundering of its natural and mineral resources, and the commission of the most serious crimes, including the use of sexual violence as a method of warfare and as a strategy of terror, is widely documented, notably by the United Nations.

At a time when the security and humanitarian crisis in the Kivus has been seriously exacerbated by the resurgence of the M23 armed group, operating with the direct support of the Rwandan army — in yet another war of aggression and occupation on Congolese territory — the European Commission’s policy and the strengthening of this strategic partnership with the dictatorial regime in Kigali appear to be in total contradiction with the principle of coherence and the fundamental values of the EU, notably the promotion of peace and human rights, which should be, in accordance with the European Treaties, fundamental objectives in its external relations.

It is in this context that we reiterate our call made in Strasbourg in 2014 on the occasion of the award of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to “ensure greater coherence between economic policies and respect for human rights, and to place human dignity at the center of economic and financial concerns.” We urge European institutions and countries to make effective and binding the EU regulation on due diligence for clean mineral supply chains, which came into force in 2021 and yet has been widely hijacked by opaque cross-border supply chains between the DRC and Rwanda.

Otherwise, the so-called green and clean energy transition will remain red with the blood of Congolese women and children, and tainted by the criminal activities of armed groups. We hope that Europe’s peace-loving and socially-just citizens will heed this call and change course at the next elections in June 2024.

– Dr. Denis Mukwege

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