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Britain cannot stay silent on atrocities in DRC to protect our Rwanda deal


3 min read

Are we really willing to risk our international obligations for the sake of protecting the Rwanda deal?

Rwanda’s ongoing support for M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) cannot be ignored. It has resulted in mass displacement, violence and potential genocide, jeopardising millions of lives. While the United States (US) and other European nations have publicly expressed concern at the United Nations Security Council, Britain’s silence speaks volumes. 

Congo’s abundant deposits of essential metals in technology  place it at the forefront of the global supply chain for critical minerals. But despite Congo’s vast mineral wealth, government corruption has allowed China and Russia to swoop in and exploit it. There are also serious human rights concerns over child labour and unsafe working conditions in some mines. 

Sanction Rwanda over its disregard for international law and human rights

China’s control of more than 80 per cent of rare earth minerals is hugely concerning should it choose to weaponise it over the South China Sea or Taiwan. Adding China’s predicted reach of half of all global cobalt output by 2024 only raises the spectre of undue influence. 

The DRC has long been an important strategic partner for the United Kingdom (UK) but Rwanda’s support for M23 rebels has strained the relationship, undermining the DRC’s economic prospects and adding to regional instability. 

Our inaction raises questions about the consistency of our foreign policy, particularly Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the Israel-Gaza conflict, where we readily hold states accountable over destabilisation and civilian casualties. 

While war in Ukraine and Gaza receive extensive media coverage, ongoing violence in DRC appears largely absent from public discourse. This silence raises legitimate concerns over fairness and transparency.

In 2012, the UK suspended aid to Rwanda for its support of the M23 rebels and in 2013 the US sanctioned and blocked military aid to Rwanda for the same reason. A decade later, UN experts found substantial evidence of Rwanda forces in Congo and despite urging from the US to pull out Rwandan troops remain there. As recently as February, there were reports of Rwanda forces using sophisticated surface-to-air missiles in eastern DRC. 

We cannot be complicit to the human suffering in DRC. Maintaining regional stability and supporting DRC’s growth is imperative for global security and our economic interests. For the war to stop, the UK, US and allies should go beyond condemning and sanctioning the M23, Rwanda’s proxy, and instead sanction Rwanda over its disregard for international law and human rights. 

At the moment, I appear to be the sole MP consistently challenging the government over its DRC policy. I hope other MPs stand with me and soon realise the damage our silence is inflicting on our relationship with one of Africa’s largest economies. 


Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham

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