Report by The Sentry warns of indicators of serious technical flaws, signs of corruption and inappropriate interference by Congo’s election commission that could undermine a free and fair election
Washington, DC – A new investigative report published today by The Sentry, “Delays and Red Flags: Elections in DR Congo,” explores allegations of corruption throughout the Democratic Republic of Congo’s current electoral cycle, including vulnerabilities that could challenge the overall integrity of the process.
Information uncovered by The Sentry and highlighted in the report, including corporate correspondence between Congo’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) and private commercial actors, suggests inappropriate interference on the part of CENI officials in the awarding of public contracts in support of the voter registration process and that the CENI may have gone so far as to intentionally manipulate technical aspects of the electoral calendar in furtherance of President Joseph Kabila’s political agenda.
Sasha Lezhnev, Deputy Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “There are major red flags in Congo’s electoral process to date that have made it far from credible. Our investigation spotlights potential corruption among electoral commission officials and manipulation of technical aspects of the election for political means. There is still a chance to salvage the electoral process, if the international community ratchets up network sanctions and anti-money laundering measures on members Kabila’s key inner circle.”
Congo’s elections are currently scheduled to be held in December 2018, but the overall electoral cycle has been characterized by a lack of transparency and violent repression. The Congolese government announced last month that President Kabila will not seek another term. However, the report warns that while the ruling this announcement is an important one, numerous red flags remain in both the technical and political aspects of the electoral process and underscore the need for increased financial pressure against the Kabila government and its international facilitators in order to ensure a credible and peaceful democratic transition of power in 2018.
John Prendergast, Co-Founder of The Sentry and Founding Director of the Enough Project, said: “The U.S. and European Union should not wait to see whether the election ends up being credible. Red lines have already been crossed. The U.S. and E.U. should escalate financial pressure on the inner circle within the Kabila regime and their key commercial facilitators both domestically and internationally. That would send a clear message that the Congolese people deserve a chance to freely and democratically elect their next president. Credible elections in Congo would be a critical step toward dismantling the system of violent kleptocracy which has plagued the country since colonial times, but this investigation illustrates how seriously free and fair electoral processes are threatened.”
This report builds on evidence uncovered in The Sentry’s June alert regarding security vulnerabilities in Congo’s proposed electronic voting technology.
The report urges the international community to escalate and then sustain financial pressure in the form of both network sanctions and anti-money laundering actions against the Kabila regime. Increased financial pressure can and should be applied to do more than just encourage elections without Kabila in 2018. It should serve to ensure a credible democratic process, a key step in laying the foundation for ending the decades of poor governance and corruption that have plagued the Congolese people. The international community should escalate and then sustain financial pressure against the Kabila regime, both to ensure credible elections in December and to transform Congo’s violent kleptocratic system.
The report recommends:
The United States, European Union and U.N. Security Council should:
- Impose targeted, network sanctions against senior members of Kabila’s inner circle and the companies they control, including senior financial advisors, family members and commercial facilitators.
- Combine sanctions with diplomatic incentives, linking sanctions relief to key components of the electoral process and increased transparency and accountability in the management of public finances more broadly– notably, a full citizens’ audit of the voter registration list, equal access for opposition parties to state media during the campaign process, freedom of assembly and expression for opposition and civil society groups, an end to violent crackdowns and intimidation against protesters and activists, the release of political prisoners and abandoning the use of electronic voting technology in favor of paper ballots, and an independent audit of state-owned mining company Gécamines’ accounts.
- Increased enforcement of existing sanctions.
The United States, European Union, African Union., Southern African Development Community and U.N. Security Council should
- Devise a coordinated a diplomatic strategy to increase regional and international pressure on Kabila to hold a credible democratic transition, and offer him an exit strategy.
- Coordinate public messaging on the Congolese government’s success or failure to meet electoral benchmarks and ensuing consequences.
The European Union should:
- Amend its existing sanctions authority for Congo to add designation criteria targeting corrupt individuals, including the misappropriation of state assets, expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, bribery and the transfer or the facilitation of the transfer of the proceeds of corruption.
The U.N. Security Council should:
- Amend existing Congo sanctions listing criteria to add (i) obstructing the democratic process and (ii) engaging in illicit financial activity, including corruption.
The African Union and U.N. Security Council should:
- Pass a strongly worded resolution calling for a credible and transparent democratic transition in Congo, in line with the December 31, 2016 Saint-Sylvestre accord. The resolution should also call for regional financial intelligence units to ensure that they are taking robust steps to implement the FATF guidelines to combat money laundering, including a focus on money laundering using corruption proceeds.
The United States should:
- Undertake special measures pursuant to the USA PATRIOT Act and other authorities against financial institutions in Congo that are engaged in laundering the proceeds of corruption.
- Increase high-level engagement with the Congolese government.
- Continue public messaging decrying opacity and violent repression in the electoral preparation process.
- Drawing on existing authorities, including Presidential Proclamation 7750, the State Department should issue visa bans on corruption grounds against senior members of the Kabila family and close associates, including financial associates.
The donor community should:
- Fund and support civil society groups efforts to observe the electoral process, and increase aid for civil society groups supporting the democratic process.
For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact: Greg Hittelman, +1 310-717-0606, [email protected].
About THE SENTRY
The Sentry is composed of financial forensic investigators, policy analysts, and regional experts who follow the dirty money and build investigative cases focusing on the corrupt transnational networks most responsible for Africa’s deadliest conflicts. By creating a significant financial cost to these kleptocrats through network sanctions, anti-money laundering measures, prosecutions, and other tools, The Sentry aims to disrupt the profit incentives for mass atrocities and oppression, and creates new leverage in support of peace efforts and African frontline human rights defenders. The Sentry’s partner, the Enough Project, undertakes high-level advocacy with policy-makers around the world as well as wide-reaching education campaigns by mobilizing students, faith-based groups, celebrities, and others. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is an initiative of Not On Our Watch (NOOW) and the Enough Project. The Sentry currently focuses its work in South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.
In less than two years, The Sentry has created hard-hitting reports and converted extensive research into a large volume of dossiers on individuals and entities connected to grand corruption, violence, or serious human rights abuses. The investigative team has turned those dossiers over to government regulatory and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and around the world, as well as to compliance officers at the world’s largest banks.
Learn more at www.TheSentry.org.