EU to renew DR Congo sanctions

1432

The European Union is set to renew sanctions in December on senior officials in Democratic Republic of Congo, including presidential candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, four Western diplomats told Reuters.

The EU imposed sanctions last year on Shadary, who served as interior minister and 15 other Congolese after a crackdown on protesters who opposed a delay in elections. The delay let President Joseph Kabila stay in office two years past his legal mandate, with an election is now set for December 23.

Congo’s government said the sanctions, which include travel bans and asset freezes, are illegal and renewing them is pointless because Kabila plans to step down after the election.

Renewal requires a unanimous vote from the EU’s 28 member states, with a decision expected 11 days before the election in Congo. Two diplomats said the EU agreed on renewal despite initial opposition from Spain, which wanted Shadary off the list.

A Spanish-led consortium two weeks ago signed a joint deal with Congo to develop a $14 billion hydroelectric project. Two diplomats said the project influenced Spain’s position. A Spanish spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.

As interior minister, Shadary oversaw police during the crackdown, in which demonstrators protesting against Kabila’s extended rule were killed. He is now running for president and has been hand-picked by Kabila.

He faces popular opposition candidates hoping to take advantage of Kabila’s decision to step aside after 18 years in power.

Felix Tshisekedi, who leads Congo’s largest opposition party, would receive 36% of the vote ahead of 16% for Shadary, according to a poll released on Tuesday by the Congo Research Group at New York University and Congolese polling firm BERCI.

The poll showed 64% of people do not trust the electoral commission to conduct a free and fair election.

Major would-be contenders including former vice president and militia leader Jean-Pierre Bemba and millionaire businessman Moise Katumbi are barred from running. Katumbi faces criminal convictions for real estate fraud and Bemba a conviction for witness tampering.