Washington has placed sanctions on two Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government officials, accusing them of suppressing political opposition and delaying political progress in the country, often through violent means.
The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Evariste Boshab and Kalev Mutondo for engaging in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in the DRC.
In a Tuesday email sent to the African News Agency (ANA) by the US Embassy in Pretoria, OFAC said that as a result of Monday’s actions, all of the designated individuals’ assets within US jurisdiction were frozen, and Americans were henceforth prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
“The Congolese government continues to undermine democratic processes in the DRC and repress the political rights and freedoms of the Congolese people, putting the long-term stability and prosperity of the country at risk,” said Adam Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the US Department of the Treasury.
“Today’s designation is intended to alter the behaviour of the targeted individuals with the aim of fostering a better and more stable future for the DRC and the Congolese people.”
The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office has reported that since the beginning of 2015, DRC state agents have increasingly violated human rights, political rights and public freedoms of Congolese people, including the freedoms of expression speech and peaceful assembly.
In late June 2016, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) expressed concern over the arrest of political opposition members in the DRC and urged the president to hold elections by the end of the year, as required by the constitution.
“The government has conducted extra-constitutional arrests and detentions, used torture as a tool of political oppression, has reportedly closed media outlets, and prevented the holding of peaceful protests,” said the Treasury Department press release.
In several provinces, defense and security forces have violently repressed peaceful demonstrations organised to oppose a new draft electoral law that many fear would allow President Joseph Kabila to run for a third term, an action that is currently prohibited under the constitution.
The government of the DRC has also barred human rights-focused researchers from a number of non-governmental organisations, including the Congo Research Group, Global Witness, and Human Rights Watch.
According to OFAC, Evariste Boshab (Boshab) is a key player in leading DRC President Kabila’s strategy to remain in power after December 19, when Kabila’s constitutional term officially ends.
In January 2015, Boshab introduced a bill before the DRC National Assembly to amend the electoral law in a manner that would delay elections and prolong President Kabila’s term beyond its constitutional limit.
Boshab also reportedly offered to pay National Assembly members for their votes. In December 2015, Boshab overstepped his authority by appointing commissioners for newly-created provinces in the DRC without holding elections.
In addition, he told officials that they should leave their posts if they supported the opposition and he has supported the neutralisation of opposition demonstrations.
Kalev Mutondo (Kalev) has ordered officials to ensure that the DRC’s electoral process favoured Kabila’s Presidential Majority or “MP” political coalition.
He has ordered surveillance of the opposition and supported the neutralisation of opposition demonstrations and the extrajudicial arrest and detainment of opposition members, many of whom were reportedly tortured, the Treasury Department added.
Kalev stands accused of pressuring DRC authorities to act outside the scope of the law to thwart the political opposition, while directing support for Kabila’s “MP” political coalition using violent intimidation and government resources.
Additionally, Kalev may be linked to the illegal export of minerals from the DRC, concluded the Treasury Department press release.