The public opinion, mostly political figures in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were attentively been watching the EU’s decision regarding sanctions that have announced few weeks ago. These sanctions have announced as a response to human rights abuses committed by individuals occupying key public positions. Today, 12th December earlier afternoon, the EU announced the first list of individuals to be sanctioned for being involved into human rights abuses related to the ongoing political crisis. Few hours later, the United States of America has too announced another series of sanctions targeting prominent officials of the DRC’s Government.
The EU has decide to sanction 7 key officials within the inner circle of President Joseph Kabila comprising the 3 who have listed by US last month. Those targets by EU’s sanctions are Ilunga Kampete, Gabriel Amisi Kumba, Ferdinand Ilunga Luyoyo, Celestin Kanyama, John Numbi, Roger Kibelisa, and Delphin Kahimbi. Kampete, Amisi Kumba, Kanyama and Numbi were on the previous list of the US sanctions. The second list of people under US sanctions comprises Kalev Mutond (Head of the National Intelligence Agence “ANR”) as well Evariste Boshab (the outgoing Minister of Interior and Security). The list and position of those targeted display likely an intention of crack the Kabila’s regime. Nevertheless, nothing would confirms that all these measures are the first interests of the Congolese society so longer as they being initiated during the critical moment when everyone finds ways to call sympathy.
The reader reminds that the US has been the first country to sanction DRC’s officials, especially military—Police Generals. In the meantime, the US has expressed the intention of lobbying to the EU countries to take a step further (than declarations) for practically targeting people who have been undermining the democratic process in the Mobutu’s country. The bilateral relationship between the two states, DRC-US, has likely been falling into a confrontational mood to the extent that the latter’s Special envoy to the great lakes region went vilified. He got struck at the Ndjili International Airport though later on he stated on his Twitter account to have met the DRC President, Joseph Kabila.
Consequential to the Ndjili’s incident, advised observers have expected the situation to get worse so long as the US wouldn’t ever allow such treatment for its diplomats in an official mission. However, the meeting with the President Kabila had signaled as an interesting step of restraint in order to positively support the fragile Congo. The US envoy went further in commending the Kabila’s willingness to peaceful handle the political crisis around the electoral process. Few days later, the sanctions resonate as if the DRC-US relationship keeps blinking for finally sinking the weaker. The sanctions have been differently been interpreted and everyone interested in the DRC future wouldn’t stay indifferent.
The article wonders what would be the effects of these sanctions being initiated at the eve of the “fateful” 19th December. Can we expect that these sanctions would appease the socio-political climate or they can lead these individuals under sanctions to behave as “hardliners”? The US has decided to mix the “sticks and carrots” or is it only determined to only hit? The blogger always wonders why sanctions are likely linked to the electoral process crisis. Is that human rights abuses matter when committed during the electoral process? What about the economic abuses (embezzlement, illicit enrichment, corruption…) that have been committed all over the years? Targeting public officials meant that they are only ones to blame to the extent those who called for demonstrations won’t be accountable if demonstrators have wrongly used this right?
For decades, the US-DRC relations have likely been “stable” till the 90s socio-political crises that led to recurring wars in the Eastern part of the Congo. For global interest related to the cold war, the US resolved to stand behind the dictatorship for roughly 3 decades. The ouster of Mobutu went followed by recurring insurgencies, mostly in the Eastern Congo. Since then, the large opinion in DRC has been considering the US as the one pulling the strings for the allegedly plan of “balkanizing” the Lumumba’s land. Following the defeat of M23 in which the US played a determinant role, the economic and diplomatic superpower had nonetheless stood firm for opposing the Kabila’s third term. It seems that all these diplomatic attempts as well as unfriendly pressures aim to support the process of democratization of the second large country in sub-Saharan Africa.
These sanctions have possibly been initiated for two purposes. On one hand, they aim to “clamp” these officials for their involvement into the abuses of human rights during the September protests as well as confinement of freedom of speeches. That would be the reasons of targeting key figures serving in the domain of security services, presidential guards, army, police, directorate of intelligence as well as the Minister of Interior and Security. On the other, the sanctions would prevent further misconducts of anyone whose responsibility is to neutrally promote the process of democratization but also securing political rights. They would stand as indications that further steps heading to prosecution, indictment are yet opened. Hence, sanctions can play an appeasing role for the forthcoming political developments even though not sufficient.
However, there is yet a room for constructive and positive support in order to get things well done that containment. It seems that US-EU sanctions might be interpreted as “la loi du plus fort” for those being targeted as well as the government in general. Moreover, the sanctions would create “hardliners” who think that they have reached the “point of no return”. In this case, an advised observer would request that these type of measures need to be limited in numbers and have to be accompanied by constructive and positive approaches. That is, sanctions (if needed) wouldn’t be put forward before any other approach of talk, discuss and convince. The Security Services in DRC would require much attention in terms of reform, capacity building as well building professionalism than punishment; though these two approaches won’t mutually be exclusive.
More specifically, the DRC’s context needs to consider the fragility of its socio-political context to the extent that everyone has to be responsibly engaged. Therefore, rules and opposition have both to be reminded that they will be held accountable when things skidded. It is likely that people would engage uncontrolled people into demonstrations as they expect to see the other side to be blamed for. Hence, such measures of targeted sanctions may widen the sense of violence. Nevertheless, rulers have to keep in their minds that they are responsible on a first place for whatever would happen to its citizens. In this case, I guess containment of few wrongdoers would be encouraged than opening doors for chaos. Thus, security services have to be prepared for in order to secure victims of any barbarism.
NTANYOMA R. Delphin
Secrétaire Exécutif & Coordonnateur
Appui au Développement Intégré &
à la Gouvernance (ADIG)
Twitter : https://twitter.com/Delphino12