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Senior Congo Officials Linked to Kabila Face Sanctions for Rights Abuses

Police officers patrolling in December in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Credit: Griff Tapper/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — Several senior officials in President Joseph Kabila’s government were hit with sanctions this week by the European Union and the United States for “planning, directing or committing” serious human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The officials, who will face sanctions that include travel bans and asset freezes, are close allies of Mr. Kabila, whose second and last presidential term expired in December. However, he remains in office until the end of this year under a pact reached with the main opposition coalition.

The sanctions are aimed at pushing the government to hold an election to replace Mr. Kabila by the end of the year.

One of the officials sanctioned Thursday by the United States was Gen. Francois Olenga, Mr. Kabila’s chief military adviser.

General Olenga is accused of permitting numerous human rights abuses by the country’s Republican Guard soldiers, including harassing political opponents and carrying out arbitrary arrests and executions.

“The government’s violent crackdown on activists, journalists and of political opposition has a high cost,” said Ida Sawyer, the director for Central Africa at Human Rights Watch.

The sanctions, she said, send a signal that “the perpetrators of the worst human rights violations and those who postpone elections will have to pay the price, regardless of their rank or position.”

The United States Treasury Department placed General Olenga on a list of “specially designated nationals,” which freezes any assets he has in the United States and bars American citizens from engaging in financial transactions with him.

The action by the United States came on the heels of the European Union’s imposition of sanctions against nine senior officials in the Kabila administration.

Among the officials targeted were Kalev Mutondo, the director of the National Intelligence Agency, and Évariste Boshab, the former deputy prime minister and minister of the interior and security. Mr. Kabila’s current deputy prime minister and minister of the interior and security, Ramazani Shadari, and the militia leader Gédéon Kyungu Mutanga were also cited along with two army commanders and two provincial governors. The ninth official cited, Lambert Menda, the minister of communications, was described as “responsible for the repressive policy towards the media” in the country.

Supporters of the Kabila administration said the sanctions were unfounded and based on false accusations from political opponents.

Aubin Minaku, the general secretary of the Presidential Majority, said the European Union sanctions were adopted without any investigations or proof.

The sanctions were welcomed by Olivier Kamitatu, a spokesman for Moise Katumbi, the opposition presidential candidate exiled in Belgium. With the new actions against the government, Mr. Kamitatu said, “the clamp tightens inexorably” around the people responsible for the Congolese crisis.

A version of this article appears in print on June 3, 2017, on Page A6 of the New York edition with the headline: Senior Congo Officials Linked to Kabila Are Sanctioned for Rights Abuses.


(C) 2017 The New York Times

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