As the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to backslide on democracy and human rights, the United States and European Union should use strong financial pressure to prevent a wider crisis and ensure President Kabila schedules timely elections, ends repression
Today, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) placed General Gabriel Amisi Kumba, aka "Tango Fort," head of the First National Defense Zone and Major General John Numbi Banza Tambo, former Inspector General of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Police on its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List.
General Amisi is a key member of Congolese President Joseph
Enough Project experts are available for comment and analysis.
Holly Dranginis, Senior Policy Analyst at the Enough Project, said: “This is what an innovative approach to atrocities prevention looks like in action. These designations will put pressure on the regime where it really hurts — their finances. They also send a message that the US does not tolerate strongmen who hold on to power through violence. Thousands of Congolese people are standing up for democracy and nonviolence at great risk to their personal security. Many have said the first round of sanctions by the US in June made a positive difference. Now it's time for these designations to be supported by robust enforcement, European sanctions, and UN peacekeepers in Congo's most vulnerable cities.”
National elections are scheduled to take place in Congo on November 19, according to the country's constitution, and President Joseph Kabila is due to step down on December 19. However, the government-led electoral commission recently announced that the elections will be delayed, potentially until 2018.
Sasha Lezhnev, Associate Director of Policy at the Enough Project, said: “The Congolese government is not yet showing real willingness to hold a democratic transition, so we welcome these sanctions as a needed step to help push the process in a constructive direction. Generals Amisi and Numbi have never been prosecuted in Congo despite a wealth of evidence about their involvement in human rights violations and in Amisi's case, involvement in the deadly conflict minerals trade and corruption. The U.S. Treasury Department should go further in tightening the financial screws, such as by issuing a request to financial institutions under Section 314(a) of the Patriot Act in order to gather information on Congolese officials who may be laundering the proceeds of corruption.”
John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project, said: “Without real leverage to move the process, the national dialogue in Congo will go nowhere. The U.S. and E.U. should use the powerful financial tools which counter terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and organized crime, and deploy them to fight kleptocracy, war crimes, and autocracy in Congo.”
In 2008, under Major General Numbi, the Congolese national police was accused by human rights groups of using excessive force against Bundu Dia Kongo, an unarmed movement fighting for greater political independence in Bas Kongo province. In 2010, while Numbi was head of the UN investigation into the death of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya noted that the "strongly suggested official responsibility." Despite allegations, Numbi was never indicted for the murder of Chebeya.
The designations come at a time when the Congolese government has increased repression. Over the past 18 months, several notable democracy activists have been jailed and radio and TV stations shut down. Last week’s demonstrations to hold elections on time led to government crackdowns, the deaths of at least 44 people, and the arrest of dozens of protestors.
President Kabila’s government has attempted to hold a National Dialogue to secure a political transition, but it was boycotted by a majority of the opposition who say the Dialogue is a ploy to extend Kabila's term.
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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.