In a hearing before the U.S. Congress’ Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission today on “Democracy and Human Rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Sasha Lezhnev, Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, presented testimony on strategies to avoid a violent crisis in the Congo, in particular through the use of greater U.S. financial pressure to create leverage in support of a democratic transition process. He testified alongside Congolese LUCHA human rights activist Fred Bauma, U.S. Special Envoy Tom Perriello, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski, Ida Sawyer of Human Rights Watch, and professional lecturer Mvemba Dizolele.
Lezhnev put forth a three-part strategy for the U.S. government:
- Financial pressure through anti-money laundering measures
- Political and financial pressure through enhanced targeted sanctions
- Appointing a new U.S. Special Envoy
Selected excerpts from official testimony to the Commission by Sasha Lezhnev:
- “President Joseph Kabila’s attempt to hold on to power risks taking Congo back 15 years to mass violence and absence of the rule of law. On the other hand, a successful democratic transition would help move the rule of law forward, increase security across the country, including in conflict-ridden eastern Congo, and lay the foundation for responsible businesses to invest.”
- “The key to changing this equation, preventing a wider violent crisis, and starting the process of reform away from violent kleptocracy is to impose serious consequences on the leaders and their business partners who profit most from violence, illicit resource extraction, theft, and undermining democracy.”
- “The United States has an opportunity now to be on the right side of what has been an all-too-often bloody history in Congo. With the right combination of financial pressure and diplomacy, it can work with the Congolese people and help them have their first ever peaceful transfer of power and prevent a violent crisis that would risk breaking the Great Lakes of Africa apart again, costing thousands of lives, subverting the will of Congo’s citizens, creating a terrible investment climate, and costing hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to respond.”
Key recommendations in Lezhnev’s testimony:
- Congress should urge the U.S. Treasury Department to take measures to counter money laundering activities that transit from banks in Congo to the international financial system, together with key European governments, particularly Belgium and the UK.
- The U.S. government should designate a short list of high-level officials and advisors with strong influence on President Kabila.
- Looking forward, Congress should urge the Trump administration to issue a new U.S. Executive Order on Congo that expressly includes corruption as a reason to place targeted sanctions on individuals in Congo.
- It is imperative that the Trump administration continues the special envoy position and appoints a new person to the job as soon as it begins. The United States has been the leader on international policy on Congo, as Europe has been too slow. Without an envoy, Kabila will take advantage of the U.S. policy gap, and move ahead rapidly to subvert democracy and put the country at major risk.
Click here to read details on the recommendations and the full testimony of Sasha Lezhnev
About THE ENOUGH PROJECT
The Enough Project, an atrocity prevention policy group, seeks to build leverage for peace and justice in Africa by helping to create real consequences for the perpetrators and facilitators of genocide and other mass atrocities. Enough aims to counter rights-abusing armed groups and violent kleptocratic regimes that are fueled by grand corruption, transnational crime and terror, and the pillaging and trafficking of minerals, ivory, diamonds, and other natural resources. Enough conducts field research in conflict zones, develops and advocates for policy recommendations, supports social movements in affected countries, and mobilizes public campaigns. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org.