The European Union is poised to impose sanctions against more Congolese officials, sources in Brussels said, amid worsening violence in the resource-rich country since President Joseph Kabila overstayed his mandate and pushed back elections.
One source said the EU will add nine names to its Congo blacklist of people subjected to asset freezes and travel bans. They join seven others, including members of the Congolese army and police, the bloc put on its list in December citing “serious violations of human rights”.
The bloc’s 28 member states are expected to approve the enlarged sanctions list at a meeting in Brussels later on Wednesday, the source said.
Kabila, in power since 2001, struck a deal in December with Congo’s main opposition bloc to stay on after his mandate expired provided he held elections by the end of 2017. But talks to implement the deal broke down in March when Kabila refused to commit to the bloc’s choice of prime minister.
Political tensions are high after security forces killed dozens during protests over election delays last year. Worsening militia violence in recent months has also raised fears of a backslide toward the civil wars of the turn of the century that killed millions.
The Congo government has repeatedly denounced earlier sanctions imposed by the EU and United States as unjustified and illegal, and has threatened diplomatic retaliation.
Congo mines significant amounts of cobalt, gold, diamonds, copper and tin but remains one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s poorest countries.
On Tuesday, the EU said separately it would help transport aid workers and medical supplies to a remote north-eastern region of Congo, which is fighting an Ebola outbreak.
(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; editing by Richard Lough)