EU and US Slap Sanctions on Top DR Congo Officials

from Human Rights Watch
Published on 12 Dec 2016 View Original

By Ida Sawyer

One week before the end of President Joseph Kabila’s constitutionally mandated two-term limit on December 19, the United States and European Union have announced targeted sanctions against top officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The sanctions – which include travel bans and assets freezes – send an unequivocal message that those responsible for planning, ordering, or executing violent repression will face consequences – no matter their rank or position.

In a move many across Congo had been waiting for, the US went higher up the chain of command than the sanctions announced in June and September, targeting Kalev Mutondo, director of the country’s National Intelligence Agency, and Evariste Boshab, vice prime minister and interior minister. Mutondo and Boshab have been the architects of much of the repression of pro-democracy activists, the political opposition, peaceful protesters, and the media over the past two years, as Kabila sought to hold on to power beyond his term limit.

The US Treasury Department said in a statement that the Congolese government “continues to suppress political opposition and delay political progress in the country, often through violent means,” and that Mutondo and Boshab were named for “engaging in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions” in Congo.

Earlier today, the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council announced targeted sanctions against seven senior security officials. According to the EU, the following four individuals “contributed to acts constituting serious violations of human rights in the DRC, by planning, directing or carrying out those acts”: Ilunga Kampete, commander of the Republican Guard; Gabriel Amisi Kumba, commander for the western region of the Congolese army; Ferdinand Ilunga Luyolo, commander of the anti-riot body Légion Nationale d'Intervention of the Congolese National Police; and Celestin Kanyama, Kinshasa police commissioner.

The EU imposed sanctions on three other senior figures for “trying to obstruct a consensual and peaceful solution to the crisis as regards the holding of elections in the DRC, in particular through acts of violence, repression or incitement to violence, or actions that undermine the rule of law”: John Numbi, former inspector-general of the Congolese National Police; Roger Kibelisa, interior director of the National Intelligence Agency; and Delphin Kahimbi, director of military intelligence.

The strong action by the US and EU signals grave concern about the direction Congo is heading, and the real risk the country could descend into large-scale violence in the coming weeks.

On December 1, the European Parliament urged the EU to adopt targeted sanctions against senior government and security forces after the EU had announced in October it would “use all means at its disposal” against individuals responsible for serious human rights violations, who promote violence, or who “obstruct a consensual and peaceful solution to the crisis.” On December 9, 72 Congolese and 15 international human rights organizations issued a statement, calling on the US and the EU to expand targeted sanctions.

Kabila and other senior officials should now take steps to end repressive measures, including allowing peaceful protests and ordering security forces not to use excessive force, by releasing political prisoners and dropping unjust charges against political leaders and pro-democracy activists, and by opening barred media outlets.

Most critical is that Kabila make a public commitment to respect the constitution and announce he will step down from office.

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