EU to impose sanctions on Congo security officials: diplomats

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2016 10:03 AM

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union foreign ministers will impose asset freezes and travel bans next Monday on Congolese officials deemed responsible for suppressing anti-government protests in September that killed dozens, diplomats said on Friday.

The move follows similar sanctions imposed in June and September by the United States against three generals in Democratic Republic of Congo for their alleged involvement in cracking down on demonstrations and blocking democratic processes.

At least 48 civilians were killed by security forces in protests on Sept. 19 and 20 against President Joseph Kabila's plan to stay in power after his mandate expires on Dec. 19, according to the United Nations, and international powers fear demonstrations this month could lead to wider violence.

"There will be an adoption of sanctions," a senior EU official told Reuters. Another EU diplomat said seven police and military officers, but no politicians, would be targeted.

The EU was not immediately available for comment.

The sanctions could be called off in the event of a breakthrough over the weekend in last-ditch talks launched by the Catholic Church to resolve the political crisis, diplomats said.

The government struck a deal with part of the opposition in October to keep Kabila in power until at least April 2018, saying a November vote could not be held on time due to logistical problems registering millions of voters.

The main opposition bloc has rejected the compromise and insists Kabila, who has ruled since 2001, leave office when his term ends.

Kabila's chief diplomatic adviser, Barnabe Kikaya bin Karubi, said sanctions would be "very destructive" in light of the talks.

"These sanctions will only fuel the conflict because now the moderates are sitting around a table," he told Reuters.

Millions died in regional conflicts in eastern Congo between 1996 and 2003 and the country has never experienced a peaceful transition of power.

(Writing By Aaron Ross; editing by Edward McAllister)