In a statement released on Thursday, the US Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control stated that it had placed three senior officials within the DRC’s National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) and the former Kabila Government under sanctions. The press release states that this follows persistent corruption to “obstruct and delay preparations for credible and inclusive elections.”
“We stand with the Congolese people who went to the polls on December 30 but remain concerned about a flawed electoral process which, following the presidential election, CENI continued to obstruct the democratic process and failed to ensure the vote reflected the will of the Congolese people,” Undersecretary of the Treasury Sigal Mandelker said Thursday.
The U.S. sanctions target commission President Corneille Nangaa, Vice President Norbert Basengezi and Marcellin Mukolo Basengezi, an adviser to Nangaa and son of Norbert Basengezi. The sanctions have blocked all the assets of the three in the US and restrictions have been placed that will not allow them to do business with US-based businesses or persons.
Nangaa was sworn in as the president of CENI in 2015, a year before the elections which were supposed to be held in 2016 according to the DRC’s constitution. However, just a little over a year into his tenure the commission petitioned the highest court in DRC for a postponement in the election citing capacity challenges. This sparked outrage and violence from the opposition which believed Joseph Kabila was using the tactic to extend his term in office.
The press release by the US accuses Nangaa of overseeing the embezzlement and misuse of CENI resources during his tenure. The Treasury Department accuses the officials of using shell companies to redirect gasoline funds and use the commission’s funds for personal use. This is quoted as one of the reasons why there was a delay in the voter registration in Kisai, an opposition stronghold in the Congo.
The charges are clearly laid out between the three officials. The jaw-dropping accusation is that over a US$100 million was inflated in costs. The amount is said to have been shared between senior members of the commission. Other monies are said to have been diverted to the businesses of the officials.
Reuters quoted Congolese sources in contact with Nangaa and other senior government officials who had said that Fayulu actually won the election but top officials instructed the commission to award the vote to Tshisekedi, who the Kabila’s camp viewed as a path of least resistance for advancing their agenda.
Tshisekedi has already found it difficult to go ahead with forming his government as Kabila’s party holds the Parliamentary majority. This has forced the new president into a coalition government with the Kabila-led party. The former President’s party is likely to have a pick of the Prime Minister in the new government.