Earlier this year, we joined the Congo advocacy community in a campaign to promote free and fair elections in the DR Congo by imploring Secretary of State John Kerry to impose targeted sanctions on President Joseph Kabila and his inner circle.
We are very pleased to announce that our organizing efforts were a success. As of last week, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has initiated a series of sanctions, beginning with General Celestin Kanyama. The Police Commissioner of Kinshasa, the capital city, General Kanyama has now been placed on the Specially Designated Nationals List, effectively blocking his assets and barring U.S. citizens from dealing with him. Kanyama has a record of employing excessive force on civilians, most notably during “Operation Likofi,” which resulted in the death of 51 youth and the disappearance of 33 others. In the prelude to the Congolese presidential elections this November, the police have launched a series of fatal attacks on peaceful protesters.
These protests are part of a nationwide call for President Kabila to step down after two terms in office, as he is constitutionally obligated to do. Kabila, however, is rumored to be orchestrating an extension of his rule, possibly by conspiring with legislators to amend the constitution. His presidency has become widely unpopular and many fear the country could plunge into chaos and violence if elections for a new president do not take place this year.
The action taken by the State and Treasury Departments is a vital first step in pressuring the Kabila regime, but it requires follow-through. OFAC must thoroughly identify and block the assets of Kanyama, guaranteeing his allies in power feel the impact. It is also worth noting that targeted sanctions are not the government’s only option. As Enough Project founder, John Prendergast, suggests, “The use of anti-money laundering provisions, anti-corruption investigations, and steps to condition donor assistance must also be deployed in the service of democracy and peace in Congo.”
If the Obama administration decided to target higher echelons of the Congolese regime, and even Kabila himself, it should pursue modernized sanctions that both maximize the policy’s financial leverage and minimize the collateral damage on the DRC’s citizenry. For greater efficacy, these new sanctions would: target economic sectors directly linked to armed conflict, network with foreign banks, place further restrictions on institutions that aid regime violations, introduce designations of companies owned by implicated elites, and enhance asset tracing and recovery.
Join Panzi Foundation on Wednesday, July 6 at 1:00 PM EST/10:00 AM PST for a conference call with experts and Panzi Foundation USA Board Members Anthony Gambino and Nita Evele. Mr. Gambino is the former USAID Mission Director in the Congo with over 35 years of experience in the DRC and Central Africa. Ms. Evele is the Director for Congo Global Action, and is a leader in Congolese civil society and diaspora. The call will focus on analysis of the escalating political crisis in the DRC, and what next for the international response. A moderated Q&A will follow opening remarks. This call will be off the record.