U.S. Sanctions Congolese Army Commander, Former Police Chief

  • Sanctions freeze all assets the pair hold in the U.S.
  • At least 50 dead after clashes between government, protesters

The U.S. imposed targeted sanctions on two senior state officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo, days after violent clashes between security forces and protesters left at least 50 people dead.

The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control placed Gabriel Amisi Kumba, a commander in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and John Numbi, a former national inspector for the Congolese police, on its Specially Designated Nationals List, which freezes any assets the two hold in the U.S. and prohibits Americans from dealing with them.

It’s the second time the U.S. government has targeted officials in Africa’s biggest copper-producing country, after imposing the same sanctions on Celestin Kanyama, the police chief in the capital, Kinshasa, in June. That followed months of criticism over the involvement of security forces in human-rights violations and restrictions on political freedoms.

Units led by Kumba “have reportedly engaged in violent repression of political demonstrations,” the Treasury said. Numbi “used violent intimidation to secure victories for candidates affiliated with” President Joseph Kabila’s ruling coalition.

New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch welcomed the move and called for the sanctions to be expanded to other senior members of the administration it says are responsible for repression and for the European Union and United Nations to impose similar measures.

‘Strong Action’

“Taking strong action now could put further pressure on President Joseph Kabila to abide by the constitutional requirement to step down at the end of his term, and help prevent a broader crisis, with potentially volatile repercussions throughout the region,” senior researcher for Congo, Ida Sawyer, said by e-mail.

The escalation in the U.S. response to violent repression in Congo comes a week after violent protests in Kinshasa provoked widespread criticism from international partners including the U.S., France and the United Nations.

“Some civilians were killed by gunshots to the head or chest and I strongly condemn the clearly excessive use of force by defense and security forces against demonstrators in the capital,” UN human-rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said in Geneva last week.

Protesters were demanding that Kabila, due to step down in December, call elections that were scheduled for Nov. 27 but are now delayed. Congo has never had a peaceful transfer of leadership and Kabila, in power since 2001, is prevented from running for a third term by the country’s constitution. His government says Kabila must remain head of state until voter registration can be completed and new polls can be organized.

Opposition parties, who called for protests last week, say Kabila is trying to hold on to power and must step down in December.

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