Friday, 14th August 2020

Central Africa

Articles related to Central Africa

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on the leader of a Central African Republic-based militia group, the Treasury Department said, accusing the leader, Sidiki Abass, of human rights abuse, including directly participating in torture.

The Treasury Department in a statement said it had blacklisted Abass, leader of the Central African Republic-based militia group Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation, or 3R, which it said “has killed, tortured, raped, or displaced thousands of people since 2015.”

The U.S. sanctions come after the United Nations Security Council Central African Republic sanctions committee imposed sanctions on the militia leader on Wednesday. 

Friday’s action freezes any of Abass’ U.S. assets and generally bars Americans from dealing with him, in addition to the U.N. sanctions that obligate member states to impose an asset freeze and travel ban, the Treasury said.

“Today’s action signals that the United States will not tolerate those who commit human rights abuses and will prevent such actors from benefiting from the U.S. financial system,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a separate statement.

In February 2019, the 3R signed a peace deal in Central African Republic, but it has violated the agreement and remains a threat to the peace, stability and security of the country, the Security Council committee said. 

The United States supports the agreement, Pompeo said, adding that it holds the “best hope for a future free of violence and instability for Central Africans.”

The U.N. committee said the 3R in 2019 killed 34 unarmed civilians in three villages and said that Abass “openly confirmed to a U.N. Entity that he had ordered 3R elements to the villages on the date of the attacks, but did not admit to giving the orders for 3R to kill.”


Deposed former Central African Republic President Francois Bozize announced on Saturday his candidacy for the December presidential vote despite being under U.N. sanctions and subject to an arrest warrant for alleged crimes against humanity.

He made the expected announcement in a speech to a large crowd of supporters at a congress of his party Kwa na Kwa (Work, Nothing But Work) in the capital Bangui.

The 73-year-old former general and army chief was overthrown in a 2013 rebellion by a coalition of mainly Muslim rebels from the north, plunging the majority Christian nation into a violent civil war and an acute and ongoing humanitarian crisis. 

“The country needs a man of experience, peace and conviction,” Bozize said in the speech that criticised the tenure of current president, Faustin-Archange Touadera.

Bozize first took power after a 2003 coup and served 10 years as president, before fleeing the country in 2013. The new administration sought his arrest for alleged crimes against humanity and incitement to genocide, but has not moved to detain him since he returned from exile late last year.

It is not clear how the warrant or foreign sanctions will affect his candidacy. In January, Bozize said he would ask the United Nations to lift the sanctions imposed in 2014 over his alleged support for ‘anti-balaka’ Christian militias. 

Touadera, who was elected in 2016, is expected to seek a second term in the election but has not yet confirmed he will run. The first round of the race is scheduled for December 27.

Most of the diamond-rich country remains beyond government control as rival militias continue to clash. The violence has forced more than 1.5 million people to flee their homes.


Democratic Republic of Congo President Felix Tshisekedi won approval on Friday for his nominations to lead state mining company Gecamines, its chairman said, after they were held up by allies of Tshisekedi’s predecessor for over a year.

The approval from the public portfolio ministry could allow Tshisekedi to exert more influence over Gecamines, which controls minority stakes in most of Congo’s largest copper and cobalt projects.

Tshisekedi announced his nominations in June last year. The refusal by successive public portfolio ministers - both allies of his predecessor Joseph Kabila - to sign off on them highlighted Tshisekedi’s struggle to impose his authority since taking over from Kabila in January 2019. 

He re-appointed Albert Yuma, a Kabila ally, as board chairman but named several of his own loyalists to senior positions. Tshisekedi’s spokesman said last year that the nominations were aimed at “stripping Yuma of his exorbitant powers”. 

Critics and anti-corruption campaigners have accused Yuma of entering corrupt deals and using Gecamines as a source of political patronage for Kabila’s allies. Yuma has denied those charges and all accusations of impropriety.

Tshisekedi, an opponent of Kabila, came to power in January 2019 after being declared the winner of an election that Kabila was ineligible to contest after 18 years in power. Kabila’s allies still hold an overwhelming majority in parliament and control most cabinet ministries. 

The presidency has stepped up pressure on the public portfolio ministry in recent weeks to approve nominations to the boards of Gecamines and other state-owned companies.

The ministry finally gave approval on Friday, Yuma said in a text message to Reuters. Sama Lukonde Kyenge, a former member of parliament and sports minister who is an ally of Tshisekedi, will take over as director-general of the company.

Gecamines produced close to 500,000 tonnes of copper per year during its 1980s heyday, but has since sold most of its assets. It has joint ventures with foreign partners, including Glencore and China Molybdenum.


The Democratic Republic of Congo’s Justice Minister Celestin Tunda tendered his resignation on Saturday in the wake of a dispute with the president over proposed laws that would give politicians more control over criminal prosecutions.

In a televised statement, Tunda gave no reason for his departure, which comes a week after President Felix Tshisekedi privately threatened to fire Tunda if he did not quit, sources close to the president said.

The disagreement over a proposal from Tunda’s political allies to give the justice ministry more control over the judiciary highlighted strains in the coalition between Tshisekedi and his long-serving predecessor Joseph Kabila.

Tshisekedi had said in a speech he would oppose any reforms that undermined the independence of the judiciary. 

“I leave the government with the conviction that my actions in the ministry of justice made a contribution to the consolidation of the rule of law,” said Tunda, a senior figure in Kabila’s FCC political alliance.

Peter Kazadi of Tshisekedi’s UDPS party said Tunda had sent a letter to parliament approving the judicial reforms without consulting the government.

“His resignation is normal because the minister acted in violation of the line laid down by the government,” Kazadi told Reuters.

Tension mounted in late June when Tunda was briefly detained by police, prompting Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga to threaten the government would resign over the matter. 

His resignation “removes one element of tension between the two camps, but it’s far from the only point of contention,” said Vincent Rouguet at London-based security firm Control Risks. “(It) is not going to be enough to restore collaboration.”

Tshisekedi has struggled to assert himself since forming a coalition government in January 2019 with Kabila, who maintains extensive powers through his parliamentary majority, control of most cabinet ministries and the army.

Friction between their parties has spilt into the streets in recent weeks. On Thursday at least three people including a policeman were killed during protests in Kinshasa and elsewhere over the nomination of an election commission chief.


Dozens of people were missing after a boat sank on Lake Kivu in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, government officials and a civil society leader said on Tuesday.

The accident occurred early on Monday around 20 minutes after the boat departed from an island in the lake bound for the regional capital Goma 30 km away, Norbert Rugusha, a government official in charge of the lake, said without elaborating.

The boat had left the village of Kisheke on Idjwi island in Lake Kivu, which divides Congo and Rwanda, with up to 80 people aboard at around midnight on Sunday, according to Esther Muratwa, president of a local civic rights group.

She said fishermen who went to help with the rescue found 19 survivors.


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