On September 28, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the extension of sanctions on Gabriel Amisi Kumba and John Numbi, following what it termed as “increasing indications that the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to suppress political opposition in the country, often through violent means.” Under this sanctions program, all of these two individuals’ assets within U.S. jurisdiction have been frozen and Americans are barred from doing business with them.
“Today’s action builds on the United States’ continued commitment to disrupt this destructive behavior and foster a better and more stable future for the DRC and the Congolese people,” said John E. Smith, Acting OFAC Director, in statement. “Today’s action is not directed at the people of DRC. It is intended to alter the behavior of the targeted individuals.”
In response, United for Africa’s Democratic Future President and Executive Director Rick Gittleman released the following statement:
“While the decision to extend targeted economic sanctions to two more associates of President Joseph Kabila implicated in the intimidation and deadly attacks of courageous Congolese citizens calling for democracy is a welcome and important development, it is not enough and time is running out.
Dozens more people have died since the recent announcement that elections scheduled for November will be postponed. It is time to zero in on the chief obstacle to democracy and peace in the country: Kabila himself. Members of the president’s family who have benefited from being in power, as well as civil authorities responsible for keeping the Kabila’s regime in power, should also be subject to sanctions.
Targeted sanctions work in the DRC. As more of the country’s citizens reject Kabila’s attempt to stay in power, his tentative grip on the country depends on an increasingly small inner circle of loyalists. Amid growing public pressure, in June the U.S. imposed sanctions targeted at Celestin Kanyama, the chief of police in Kinshasa, where peaceful protests were met by deadly force in January 2015. The decision to extend sanctions that isolate and divide Kabila’s henchman sends a signal to Kabila that he must yield power as required by the constitution. But until the U.S. closes in on Kabila, his family and civil authorities responsible for keeping his unconstitutional regime in power he will continue to assume cunning manipulation and brutal force will allow him to extend his rule.
With the September 19 announcement that elections will be postponed, it is more important than ever for the United States to continue to intensify the pressure on Kabila to honor the country’s Constitution and spare the country of additional bloodshed. The U.S. Senate’s adoption of a resolution earlier this month (S Res 485) pressing for sanctions if Kabila continues to subvert the DRC’s constitution and the possibly imminent adoption of a similar measure by the U.S. House demonstrates broad bipartisan in Congress for clear and decisive action by the Obama Administration to safeguard democracy in this nation of 80 million people.
Since the DRC erupted in recent weeks, there has been renewed interest in a “national dialogue” Kabila has proposed. This is nothing but Kabila’s latest attempt to undermine the constitution. Kabila must step down December 19, at the end of his constitutionally-defined term. He must free political prisoners and drop bogus charges brought against political opponents. Only then can a high-level discussion aimed at addressing discrete obstacles in the way of timely, free and fair balloting take place.
The continued extension of sanctions will affirm before the international community the United States’ determination for Kabila to exit the scene so democracy can flourish. Consenting to an open-ended dialogue will facilitate Kabila’s cynical effort to fool the world and destroy the democracy too many Congolese have died defending under his rule.
The imminent threat of sanctions on the Kabila household is needed to convince him it is time to end his brutal charade.”