The United States has made good on its threat to penalise individuals that undermine electoral processes, announcing on Friday that it would deny visas to officials that were involved in election misconduct in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Washington said it wanted to send a clear signal of the need for accountability in the conflict-torn nation but stressed that it will still work with the controversially elected new president, Felix Tshisekedi.
The United States said it would reject any visa request from five senior Congolese figures as well as their immediate family members over “involvement in significant corruption relating to the election process.”
They operated with impunity at the expense of the Congolese people and showed a blatant disregard for democratic principles and human rights.
They include Corneille Nangaa, president of the Independent National Election Commission, Constitutional Court president Benoit Lwamba Bindu and Aubin Minaku Ndjalandjoko, president of the National Assembly.
The State Department said it was also imposing visa restrictions on an unspecified number of other military and government officials over human rights abuses related to the election.
“These individuals enriched themselves through corruption, or directed or oversaw violence against people exercising their rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” the State Department said in a statement.
“They operated with impunity at the expense of the Congolese people and showed a blatant disregard for democratic principles and human rights,” it said.
A rigged election?
The United States and other international players had been holding their breath for the December 30 election, which ultimately marked the first peaceful transfer of power in sub-Saharan Africa’s most vast country since independence from Belgium in 1960.
Martin Fayulu, a former oil executive, alleged widespread fraud and accused Tshisekedi of collaborating with outgoing president Joseph Kabila.
Despite recognizing concerns over the election, regional and world powers led by South Africa quickly coalesced behind Tshisekedi in hopes of preventing greater instability.
Fayulu had accused Nangaa, the election chief, of breaking the law to help engineer the election results. Nangaa hit back after the country’s powerful Catholic church raised doubts about the election, saying it was in no position to know the vote tallies.
The opposition leader had earlier also accused Kabila of stacking the top court to have his way with the election. Kabila was constitutionally barred from seeking a third term and won praise for eventually stepping down — but he stayed in power even after his second mandate enzded in 2016.
Fayulu has maintained that he is the elected president of the resource-rich nation and has maintained pressure, tweeting on Thursday,
“I say it and I’ll repeat it — I will not let Joseph Kabila take the destiny of an entire people hostage.”
The State Department, however, said that its actions were “specific to certain individuals.”
It said the United States was committed to working with the new government “to realize its expressed commitment to end corruption and strengthen democracy and accountability, and respect for human rights.”