The US has slapped targeted sanctions on a Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) general and a former senior police official in an apparent effort to push President Joseph Kabila to curb political repression in the country and respect the constitution by stepping down from power when his mandate expires later this year.
Last week saw a deadly political crackdown in the country as people took to the streets to demand that Kabila sticks to the two-term limit set by the constitution. The violence saw around 50 people killed during clashes between security forces and protesters. Kabila has been in power since 2001.
The US Treasury Department's action has come against Major General Gabriel Amisi Kumba and former senior police official, John Numbi. The two have been placed under a list of "specially designated nationals".
The action against them means they cannot engage in any financial transactions with the US. If they have any financial assets in Washington, they will be blocked. Americans are also generally banned from having business contacts with Kumba and Numbi, Reuters reported.
Kumba manages the security forces in four DRC provinces, including the bustling capital, Kinshasa. Numbi was the former national inspector of the country's police force.
The Treasury said the decision to sanction the duo was the result of "increasing indications that the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo continues to suppress political opposition in the country, often through violent means".
"These current and former Democratic Republic of the Congo government officials have engaged in actions that undermine democratic processes in the DRC and repress the political rights and freedoms of the Congolese people, risking further and more widespread instability in the DRC, and the broader Great Lakes region," the acting director of the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), John E Smith, said.
"Today's action builds on the United States' continued commitment to disrupt this destructive behaviour and foster a better and more stable future for the DRC and the Congolese people. Today's action is not directed at the people of DRC. It is intended to alter the behaviour of the targeted individuals," Smith added.
Units under Kumba's command have "reportedly engaged in violent repression of political demonstrations". As for Numbi, the department said, he used "violent intimidation" to gather votes to make a pro-Kabila gubernatorial candidate win the provincial elections in March. Although Numbi is no longer a serving government official, he is believed to be "an influential adviser to Kabila".
On 16 September, Washington had threatened to impose sanctions against political figures who were behind causing delays in the vote which was scheduled to take place in November 2016. It also pledged additional targeted sanctions against those who sought to undermine DRC's constitution or came in the way of its election process.
In June, sanctions were placed on Celestin Kanyama, the police commissioner of Kinshasa.
Following the sanctions on Kumba and Numbi, the US embassy in Kinshasa has warned its nationals residing in the DRC that it could only offer very limited emergency services to them due to the continued insecurity in the African country, Reuters reported.
Ida Sawyer from Human Rights Watch (HRW) has welcomed the sanctions decision and called on other global powers like the European Union and the United Nations Security Council to impose sanctions on other senior Congolese government and security officials too.