EU slaps DR Congo officials with sanctions after anti-Kabila deaths

UN security police officers in action in DR Congo, December 2016. [MONUSCO/ Flickr]

The EU yesterday (12 December) imposed sanctions against seven top DR Congo security officials for their role in deadly clashes with protesters against President Joseph Kabila.

More than 50 people died in the September violence and European Union foreign ministers had warned in October they would act if Kabila showed no sign of leaving office when his term ends on 19 December.

Ministers decided “to impose restrictive measures against the seven individuals who hold positions of authority in the chain of command over the Congolese security forces which have exercised a disproportionate use of force”, a statement said.

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Kinshasa immediately slammed the sanctions as both illegal and “imperial”.

“(These sanctions) are illegal because they are a sort of imperial law that is at odds with international law. The DRC, a non-European country, condemns them and intends to take action against them,” said government spokesman Lambert Mende.

Last week, the New York-based Human Rights Watch demanded the EU act before it was too late.

“President Kabila and Congolese officials need to be sent a strong message that violating the rights of the Congolese people is costly for those responsible,” said Ida Sawyer, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Acting now to help prevent the situation in Congo from spiraling out of control will be critical to stability, the rule of law, and respect for fundamental human rights in Congo and throughout the region.”

“Imposing targeted sanctions on senior officials, especially before 19 December, could help walk Congo back from the brink and deter further violent repression,” said Georges Kapiamba, president of the Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ). “Such action would show that with each passing day, the consequences for the government will be greater.”

Today’s steps do indeed include travel bans and asset freezes.

The seven include two Kabila allies: army commander Major General Gabriel Amisi Kumba and former inspector of police General John Numbi, who have previously been sanctioned by the United States.

The EU also listed Ilunga Kampete, head of the president’s Republican Guard; Ferdinand Ilunga Luyoyo, commander of the anti-riot squad; Celestin Kanyama, chief of the national police; Roger Kabelisa, in charge of the internal security services; and Delphin Kaimibi, who ran the military intelligence arm.

Tragedy in DR Congo: EU can help

As the EU considers imposing sanctions on DR Congo, massacres are spreading in the east. Tom Gillhespy calls for the international community to provide more support to local organisations working to prevent armed conflict.

The EU meanwhile said it would follow developments in DR Congo very closely and further sanctions “may be considered in the event of further violence or the political process being impeded”.

The 28-nation bloc also called on the government to cooperate with a “transparent and independent investigation” to bring those responsible for the violence to justice.

Last week, the Catholic Church launched “reconciliation talks” in an effort to broker a deal between the opposition and Kabila on holding new elections.

The EU wants polls and a new government to ensure stability in the DR Congo, a mineral-rich and strife-torn former Belgian colony that sits astride Africa’s strategic crossroads.

Kabila first took office in 2001 after the assassination of his father Laurent-Desire Kabila and a 2006 constitutional provision limited the presidency to two terms.

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