Note: This blog was written by the Enough Project intern Anuli Mefor.
On November 14, the United States House of Representatives passed H.Res.780 – A resolution urging respect for the constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the democratic transition of power in 2016,by a vote count of 416-3.
Championed by Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Christopher Smith (D-NJ) and Karen Bass (D-CA) along with Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY), H.Res.780 urges United States to take a range of actions, including imposing targeted sanctions and investigating money laundering activities, against key figures in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who have impeded progress toward a democratic presidential transition that respect the will of the Congolese. Prioritizing the use of financial tools in this context would create leverage for diplomacy by potentially changing the calculations of those in Kabila’s inner circle, incentivizing peace and a transition of power.
The resolution urges that sanctions only be lifted when President Kabila “unequivocally and publicly” declares that he will step down from the presidency once his term ends on December 19, 2016 and has made verifiable progress toward achieving that goal, or the presidency is peacefully handed over to a successor after free and fair elections are held. The resolution also calls for the review of all economic and security assistance to the Congolese government, for possible termination, while preserving forms of humanitarian assistance through international organizations and NGOs.
This resolution comes at an increasingly tense and critical time in Congo as the President is showing no signs that he will depart from office on the institutionalized date of December 19. Since January 2015, President Kabila has continually used administrative, judicial, and violent means to delay the presidential elections. September 19 was the deadline to announce the date of the elections and until today no consensus has been made. This has led to the increase of violent repression and abuses that instill fear and violate the fundamental rights of individuals and communities in many parts of Congo. The United States, in coordination with the international community should follow the recommendations supported by the House of Representatives and take steps to end the political stalemate in Congo and mitigate risks to civilians.
Additional cosponsors on this resolution included Representatives Tom Rooney (R-FL), David Cicilline (D-RI), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Bill Keating (D-MA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Michael Capuano (D-MA). A counterpart in the Senate, S.Res.485, passed in September.
Enough applauds the ongoing, critical efforts of the U.S. Congress to ensure that the Democratic Republic of Congo has a timely, constitutionally-mandated, peaceful transition of power.