Rising instability and violence due to lack of a democratic transition brings new U.S. national security and regional threats; Enough Project calls for revved-up financial and diplomatic pressures on Kabila regime and its partners
A report published today by the Enough Project argues that a more robust international strategy to address a leadership-driven crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo can avert new potential threats to regional stability and U.S. national security. The report warns that President Joseph Kabila’s attempt to stay in power at all costs is moving Congo from a fragile democracy to a dictatorship.
The report, “Strategic Pressure: A Blueprint for Addressing New Threats and Supporting Democratic Change in the DRC,” co-authored by the Enough Project’s Sasha Lezhnev and John Prendergast, recommends robust financial and diplomatic pressures to begin to break the cycle of violent kleptocracy in Congo, while also pushing for key structural reforms and immediate conflict mitigation steps in the country’s Kasai region and the east.
John Prendergast, report co-author and Founding Director at the Enough Project, said: “President Kabila’s subversion of democracy is putting Congo at risk of much greater violence, and is now creating the potential for regional instability and the possible disruption in the supply of minerals strategically important to U.S. and European security and to U.S. and other global manufacturers. A much more aggressive pro-democracy strategy is needed to prevent a disaster that would be costly not only to the Congolese population but also to European and American interests.”
The report argues that the power grab by President Kabila and his Congolese and international collaborators is driven by their desire to not cede immunity and control over an estimated $24 trillion in natural resource wealth.
Sasha Lezhnev, report co-author and Deputy Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “President Kabila is preventing a democratic transition from occurring because he and his inner circle make millions from corrupt deals, and they don’t want to lose access to those deals. Ambassador Nikki Haley has paid close attention to Congo and should help the U.S. enact targeted sanctions on Kabila’s senior financial advisors and the networks and companies they control, as well as anti-money laundering measures on the banks they use to launder corrupt money.”
Holly Dranginis, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project, said: “This crisis will not slap our world leaders in the face all at once. Its architects, who include Congo’s president and his business networks, are gradually burning down Congo’s democracy, hoping to obscure a disastrous, illegal outcome. But meanwhile, they are dismantling rights and overseeing violent crackdowns. Repression is winning. However, the Congolese people are standing up, wise to Kabila’s trickery. They have a right to a democratic transition, and the international community has a responsibility to use its leverage to support them. For foreign governments with leverage, choosing to idle is choosing to side with a deceptive authoritarian regime.”
The international community, regional states, and the private sector should work on four tracks to support Congolese efforts:
- Use financial pressure to change the Kabila regime’s cost-benefit calculations to hold a democratic transition. The United States and Europe should enact a series of escalating anti-money laundering measures and targeted network sanctions against senior members of the regime and companies they control. U.S. and E.U. sanctions helped lead to the signing of the December 31 deal, but the lack of sustained follow up pressure contributed to the non-implementation of the deal. The pressure now needs to shift to more senior targets and their networks in order to affect Kabila’s calculations, including the regime’s senior financial advisors, Kabila’s family members, and their companies. Their reliance on the U.S. dollar, euro, and international banks creates major leverage for the United States and Europe. In order to enhance Executive Branch leverage, the U.S. Congress should also introduce legislation authorizing increased financial pressure in support of a democratic transition.
- As more pressure is applied, support talks to create a path to free and fair elections and President Kabila’s exit from the presidency. Negotiations will eventually be necessary to prevent wider violence and for the government, opposition, and civil society to work out a plan for elections and a political transition in line with the December 31 accord and the civil society manifesto, and to ensure that Kabila leaves office before elections. An independent African mediator trusted by all sides should be appointed to help broker a time-bound transition plan that is supported by Angola and neighboring states. Civil society groups must be included in talks, and the United States and United Nations should increase legal services and physical protection for civil society. Credible elections should occur as soon as possible.
- Enact targeted measures to help resolve conflict in Kasai and the east. This should include support for accountability measures and investigations for those fomenting violence, and efforts to cut off the conflict gold trade through U.N. Security Council sanctions on conflict gold smuggling networks in Congo and neighboring countries.
- Combat grand corruption by pushing for transparency reforms of state-owned mining companies. This is directly tied to the electoral quagmire, as these companies are at the heart of how Kabila’s inner circle generates illicit wealth and why it wants to stay in power. The United States and European Union should pressure the Congolese government until independent audits of the state-owned mining company Gécamines are conducted and those audits are published. Technology and mining firms should also press the regime because they partner with or are supplied by Gécamines.
ABOUT THE ENOUGH PROJECT – an anti-atrocity policy group
The Enough Project supports peace and an end to mass atrocities in Africa’s deadliest conflict zones. Together with its investigative initiative The Sentry, Enough counters armed groups, violent kleptocratic regimes, and their commercial partners that are sustained and enriched by corruption, criminal activity, and the trafficking of natural resources. By helping to create consequences for the major perpetrators and facilitators of atrocities and corruption, Enough seeks to build leverage in support of peace and good governance. Enough conducts research in conflict zones, engages governments and the private sector on potential policy solutions, and mobilizes public campaigns focused on peace, human rights, and breaking the links between war and illicit profit. Learn more – and join us – at www.EnoughProject.org.