The U.S. government has imposed sanctions on high-level Congolese officials it says are responsible for the decline of democracy and human rights in the country.
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said in a statement Wednesday that it has placed General Gabriel Amisi Kumba, also known as "Tango Fort," head of the First National Defense Zone of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Major General John Numbi Banza Tambo, former inspector general of National Police, on its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List.
Amisi, a key member of President Joseph Kabila's inner circle, was promoted to his current position in charge of security for Kinshasa and western Congo despite having been suspended from the army because of a 2012 U.N. Group of Experts report that said he allegedly supplied arms and ammunition to poachers and illegal armed groups known to commit atrocities. The Congolese military never prosecuted him.
There have also been reports by the U.N. and British broadcasting organization BBC that Amisi made money through the conflict minerals trade.
In 2008, under Numbi, the Congolese national police was accused by human rights groups of using excessive force against an unarmed movement fighting for greater political independence in Bas Kongo province.
Also in 2010, a U.N. investigation that Numbi was heading into the murder of a human rights activist "strongly suggested official responsibility." Despite allegations, Numbi was never indicted for the murder.
The sanctions come at a time when the DRC government has increased repression. Over the past 18 months, several prominent democracy activists have been jailed, and radio and TV stations have been shut down.
Demonstrations to hold elections on time led to government crackdowns, the deaths of at least 44 people, and the arrest of dozens of protesters.
Kabila's government has attempted to hold a dialogue to secure a political transition, but it was boycotted by a majority of the opposition that said the dialogue is a ploy to extend his term.
National elections are scheduled for November 19, according to the DRC's constitution, and Kabila is due to step down December 19. But the government-led electoral commission recently announced that the elections will be delayed, potentially until 2018.