By Jonathan Landay
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States clamped sanctions on a Democratic Republic of Congo general and a former senior police official on Wednesday in an apparent ratcheting up of pressure on President Joseph Kabila to hold an election for his successor in November.
The U.S. Treasury Department action came a week after dozens of people died in clashes between Congolese security forces and protesters angered by what opposition groups charge are Kabila’s plan to postpone the vote and retain power beyond his two-term limit.
Kabila denies the allegation about planning to retain power. His government has said that the November election must be postponed because of logistical problems.
Major General Gabriel Amisi Kumba and John Numbi, a former senior police official, were placed on a list of “specially designated nationals,” said a Treasury Department announcement.
Any financial assets they have in the United States are blocked and Americans are generally barred from engaging in financial transactions with them.
The decision to sanction the pair followed “increasing indications that the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to suppress political opposition in the country, often through violent means,” the Treasury said.
Amisi oversees security forces in four provinces, including Kinshasa. Units under his command “reportedly have engaged in violent repression of political demonstrations,” including January 2015 protests in which at least 42 people died, the announcement said.
Numbi, the former national inspector of the country’s police force, used “violent intimidation” to secure victories for pro-Kabila gubernatorial candidates in March 2016 provincial elections, it said.
While no longer a government official, Numbi “is reportedly an influential adviser to Kabila,” the announcement added.
The United States imposed sanctions on Celestin Kanyama, police commissioner of the capital, Kinshasa, in June.
Ida Sawyer, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, praised the sanctions decision and called on the United States, the European Union and the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on other senior Congolese government, security and intelligence officials.
At the same time, the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa warned U.S. citizens of continued insecurity in Congo and said it could only offer very limited emergency services to them.
The State Department ordered the departure of family members of U.S. personnel and also authorized voluntary departure of non-emergency government personnel, it said in an email.
(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Sandra Maler)