WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States said on Thursday it had imposed visa bans on several senior officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo for corruption tied to the country’s electoral process to send a “strong signal” about the need for a peaceful transfer of power.
Washington declined to identify the individuals, saying it was not obligated to reveal them based on “foreign policy considerations.”
“Today’s actions send a strong signal that the U.S. government is committed to fighting corruption, to supporting credible elections that lead to DRC’s first peaceful and democratic transfer of power,” the State Department said.
The move comes before elections scheduled in DRC for Dec. 23. There are concerns, however, that President Joseph Kabila, who succeeded his assassinated father Laurent in 2001, could delay the vote to seek a third elected term.
The visa ban comes after the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler on June 15, who it said had amassed a fortune through corrupt mining and oil deals in the DRC, using his close friendship with Kabila.
Sasha Lezhnev, deputy policy director at the nonprofit rights group Enough Project called Thursday’s visa ban an important step “to dissuade Kabila from putting his name on the ballot and help ensure a credible election.”
“Several senior Congolese officials involved in corruption travel frequently to the U.S., so the visa ban is an important step,” said Lezhnev. “They or the businesses they partner with also use U.S. banks to process corrupt commercial deals, so the U.S. and EU should enact stronger sanctions on their corporate networks to target their assets.”
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)