U.S. sanctions 'human rights abusers' leading Congo's military, militias

By Sara Shayanian  |  Feb. 6, 2018 at 9:50 AM
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Feb. 6 (UPI) -- The U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned four members of the Democratic Republic of Congo's military and militias for their involvement in the country's ongoing internal conflict.

The treasury said in a news release the four men were responsible for prolonging the conflict in the country and contributed to widespread poverty, chronic food insecurity and population displacement. The men are now prohibited from making transactions with Americans and their assets have been blocked within U.S. jurisdiction.

"We are targeting human rights abusers perpetuating the horrific conflict in the eastern DRC who have contributed to the tremendous suffering of the Congolese people," John E. Smith, the Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, said.

"They are responsible for horrendous acts including sexual abuse and forced military recruitment of children into positions requiring them to commit acts of violence, among other atrocities. The United States stands in solidarity with the Congolese people against those who destabilize the region."

The four sanctioned men are Muhindo Akili Mundos, a general in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and senior rebels from three militia groups: Gédéon Kyungu Mutanga, Lucien Nzabamwita and Guidon Shimiray Mwissa.

The U.S. Treasury says Mundos was accused of a "brutal crackdown on the civilian population and for cooperating profitably with rebel groups in the region."

Mutanga was once convicted in a Democratic Republic of Congo court in 2009 for crimes against humanity that included murder, arbitrary executions, torture, cannibalism, mutilation, rape and sexual slavery.

Mwissa is accused of creating his own rebel group, the Nduma defense du Congo, which was responsible for the 2016 crisis in the Bulehusa area, where militia leaders threatened Hutu internally-displaced persons to leave their homes and killed many civilians.

Nzabamwita was sanctioned over his role as a military leader for FDLR, a group whose members include individuals responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the United Nations reported that more than 800,000 children have been forced from their homes by violence and armed clashes in eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The United Nations Children's Fund has called it "one of the largest displacement crises in the world for children."

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