Note: This blog post was written by Enough Project Intern Will Cullen.
The momentum in the U.S. Congress is growing for pressure on the Democratic Republic of Congo to hold elections on time and for President Joseph Kabila to uphold the Constitution and step down. On June 13, the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ), introduced H.Res.780, urging respect for the constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the democratic transition of power in 2016. Representative Smith introduced the resolution along with original cosponsors House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY); and House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations Ranking Member Karen Bass (D-CA). The Resolution calls on the Obama Administration to impose targeted sanctions and leverage other financial pressure as one way to support the constitution of the the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Take Action: Urge your Members of Congress to Support H. Res. 780
For over a year, Congolese leaders, activists, and students have been calling on Congolese President Joseph Kabila to indicate his intentions to step down, hold elections on time, and adhere to the DRC’s constitutionally-mandated two term limit – resulting in dozens of arbitrary arrests and detentions of civil society leaders from movements such as Lucha, Filimbi, and others. Government security forces are continuing this trend of violent response using tear gas, beatings, and bullets. In one instance, the government hired martial artists and thugs to beat up protesters. In recent months, as Congolese security and intelligence officials have clamped down on political dissent, President Kabila has continued to use procedural means to delay the Presidential election.
“Such a strategy is unacceptable to democracy advocates around the globe and does not have the support of the Congolese people as indicated by demonstrations and a nationwide one-day strike on February 16. Obama needs to act now to prevent further unrest and support the people of the DRC”– Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ)
The U.S. Government has threatened real consequences for many months now. Under Executive Orders 13413 and 13671, President Obama has the ability to impose targeted sanctions such as visa denials and asset freezes on those undermining democracy in Congo, including individuals who are close to President Kabila and essential to his grasp on power.
In the resolution, the House urges the Obama Administration take action on its previous rhetoric. It additionally urges the U.S. to use its authority under the Patriot Act (18 U.S.C. 1956) to “investigate and target money laundering activities, specifically related to the diversion of proceeds of corruption, by key figures close to President Kabila.” The language also advises the Obama Administration to impose visa denials and asset freezes for those who “undermine democratic processes or institutions” in the DRC, and “target the financial institutions facilitating money laundering by these figures as well as to pressure the jurisdictions in which they are located to monitor this activity and take enforcement action as appropriate.” Such actions will make clear to President Kabila’s kleptocratic regime that the United States stands with democracy and the rule of law in the DRC.
“The sanctions included in this measure aren't meant to punish the Congolese people, nor are they a silver bullet for the country’s political challenges. They are one tool to encourage the government to organize elections, as the country’s Constitution demands. We look to the Congolese government, opposition, and civil society to come together and address the technical and political roadblocks to democratic transition.” — Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY)
The full text of the House Resolution can be found here.
Take Action: Urge your Members of Congress to Support H. Res. 780.