The U.S. Treasury Department, through its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), has imposed sanctions on General Francois Olenga Tete, a senior military advisor to Congolese President Joseph Kabila.
These sanctions, which were announced yesterday, come just a week after the European Union sanctioned nine high-level officials from the Democratic Republic of Congo – adding to the seven Congolese officials sanctioned last year.
In a press statement, the U.S. Treasury Department said it has placed General Olenga and a company linked to him, Safari Club, on its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list for his involvement in the ongoing political crisis in DRC.
“This action follows continued efforts by DRC President Joseph Kabila and the DRC Government to obstruct and delay preparations for a credible and inclusive presidential election and DRC’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power in accordance with the December 31 agreement,” the statement read.
General Olenga is one of the most trusted military advisors to President Kabila and has been the chief procurer of arms for the regime for more than a decade.
He was named Chief of Logistics of the army as far back as 1997, then promoted to Chief of Land Forces in 2012, and most recently appointed as the head of the Maison de Militaire, a senior military advisory position to the president.
Violence against Defenseless Citizens
In the statement, the Treasury Department accused General Olenga of overseeing security operations on behalf of President Kabila’s efforts to suppress political opposition in the DRC and supporting the reassignment of senior military officers perceived to have pro-opposition tendencies.
It further condemned the DRC Republican Guard for actively disrupting the political process in the country, including harassing political rivals, targeting opposing political parties, and arbitrarily arresting and executing Congolese citizens.
“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,” said OFAC’s Director John E. Smith, adding that the U.S. government is ready to place additional sanctions against anyone who undermines DRC’s democratic and electoral processes.
Since late last year, a cloud of uncertainty and political tension has been rising in the Democratic Republic of Congo as President Kabila continues to hold on to power despite his tenure having ended in December.
The stalemate is as result of the postponement of elections slated for November last year by DRC’s electoral commission, which argues that it does not have the needed resources to carry out a credible election.
But some people read mischief in the postponement of presidential elections, saying it is a strategy by Kabila to illegitimately extend his reign.
Experts have warned of a possible return to a deadly civil war if Kabila continues to hold on to power.
Since its independence in 1960, the Democratic Republic of Congo has never had a peaceful and democratic transfer of power; coups are more common than elections in the Central African nation.