The United States has sanctioned six individuals for allegedly aggravating violence in eastern Congo.
The U.S. Treasury Department said Thursday that the Rwandan and Congolese individuals sanctioned “belong to one of four key militias or armed forces contributing to instability in eastern (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and perpetrating serious human rights abuses,” including the targeting of children and systematic sexual assault.
The new round of economic sanctions follows a recent increase in armed conflict along the northeastern border of the Congo with Rwanda. According to the United Nations, three decades of violence in the region have displaced over 6 million people, with the crisis escalating since the M23 insurgent group’s resurgence in November 2021.
M23, whose intelligence chief Bernard Byamungu is among those sanctioned, is one of over 120 armed groups in the region vying for control of precious mineral resources, territory, or community protection. The violence has prompted an exodus of more than one million individuals.
In addition, the United States imposed economic sanctions on the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a Hutu-led rival militia to M23; the Congolese armed forces; and the Rwandan Defense Forces, all of which have been accused of committing human rights abuses in Congo over the past decade or more.
US Sanctions Seen as Symbolic Gesture by Analysts
Analyst at the International Crisis Group Onesphore Sematumba stated that the U.S. sanctions are largely symbolic. “By sanctioning individuals of a certain level, (the United States) sends the message, ‘We see what’s happening,'” he said.
Sematumba stated that the current sanctions imposed by various external actors are too dispersed.
“Perhaps if these three blocs (the United States, the United Nations, and the European Union) coordinated their sanctions, they would have a greater impact,” he said.
The EU sanctioned seven individuals implicated in the conflict on July 29, including three of the same individuals targeted by U.S. sanctions on Thursday. It is unknown whether these armed group leaders have significant economic ties to U.S.-based companies.
Source: ABC News