The United States on June 1, 2017, imposed targeted sanctions against Gen. François Olenga, the personal military chief of staff of President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Human Rights Watch said today.
The US also imposed sanctions on a resort the adviser owns outside the capital, Kinshasa.
The US action follows new targeted sanctions announced by the European Union on May 29 against eight senior officials and a militia leader who have long been implicated in serious abuses in Congo.
The sanctions include travel bans, assets freezes, and a ban on making funds or economic resources available to, or engaging in transactions with, the listed individuals and entity.
“The new US and EU targeted sanctions against top Congolese officials and business interests send a powerful message that there’s a high cost for the government’s violent repression of activists, journalists, and the political opposition,” said Ida Sawyer, Central Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“The sanctions signal that the most serious rights abusers and those delaying elections will have to pay a price, no matter their rank or position.”
President Kabila was due to step down at the end of his constitutionally mandated two-term limit on December 19, 2016, but he has held on to power as the vote to elect his successor has been delayed repeatedly.
The US sanctioned Gen. François Olenga for his role as the head of the “military house” of the president, “which oversees the Republican Guard, an entity that has, or whose members have, engaged in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions” in Congo. The Safari Beach resort on the outskirts of Kinshasa was also listed “for being owned or controlled by Olenga.”
In a statement from the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announcing the new sanctions, OFAC Director John E. Smith said, “This action against Olenga sends a strong message that continued acts of violence, aggression, and suppression by the Congolese military against its own citizens are unacceptable. The United States is prepared to apply additional sanctions against those who undermine the DRC’s democratic or electoral processes.”