US Senate Unanimously Passes Resolution Calling for Strong U.S. Stance on
Congo Elections, Targeted Sanctions
Posted by Enough Team <http://www.enoughproject.org/blogs/enough-team> on
Sep 15, 2016
On September 13, the United States Senate unanimously passed S.Res.485 - A
resolution urging the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to
comply with constitutional limits on presidential terms and fulfil its
constitutional mandate for a democratic transition of power in 2016
Co-sponsored by Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Johnny
Isakson (R-GA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Marco Rubio
(R-FL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Chris Murphy (D-CT), S.Res.485 urges
President Obama to take a range of actions, including imposing targeted
sanctions on Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s inner circle - such as
travel bans and asset freezes - with the goal of pressuring Kabila to
respect Congo’s Constitution and refrain from using violence and human
rights abuses to silence and repress civil society.
The resolution also urges the Congolese government to demonstrate
commitment to elections by accelerating critical processes such as voter
registration, and to protect freedom of speech particularly in relation to
partisan political activities.
There is currently a similar resolution moving through the House
(H.Res.780), which is awaiting a vote on the House floor.
*Urge your Representative to Support H.Res. 780 >*
This resolution comes at an increasingly tense and critical time in Congo.
According to the Congolese constitution, September 19th is the deadline for
the elections commission to announce that presidential elections will be
held in time for President Kabila’s departure from office on December 19.
Since September 1, President Kabila’s ruling party as well as several
opposition parties have been participating in what the regime is calling a
“national dialogue,” claiming it is meant to set a course for the future.
The dialogue has been marred, however, by vague agendas and a lack of
participation by several groups who say the process is a ruse, and run by a
partial mediator. Kabila has still not indicated when or under what terms
he intends to step down from the presidency, but senior officials have said
publicly that the elections will not be held on time. As of September 12,
the opposition groups that were taking part walked out of the talks
confirming a deep-set impasse between parties, and an end to the process
The U.S. can increase pressure on Kabila through the use of financial
tools, such as targeted sanctions, which would create leverage for
diplomacy by limiting Kabila’s allies’ ability to travel and access their
assets. S.Res.485 adds to the growing call for the U.S. to take a tougher
stance on Congo’s elections, and sends a strong message to President Kabila
that constitutional violations, including electoral delays and repression
of civil society, will not be tolerated.
The violent repression and abuses resulting from Congo’s elections crisis
have already instilled fear and violated the fundamental rights of
individuals and communities in many parts of Congo. As noted in a recent
Amnesty International report
<https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr62/4761/2016/en/>, the Congolese
government is using state institutions to prevent people who oppose a
prolongation of President Kabila’s term in office to organize and express
themselves. The risk of violence and abuse of fundamental rights will
likely rise dramatically on September 19th if on-time elections are not
announced. The Obama administration should follow the recommendations
unanimously supported by the Senate and take steps to mitigate risks to
civilians and support timely and peaceful elections in accordance with
- Eastern Congo
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