President Felix Tshisekedi's government officials have been beset by systemic corruption. On August 16, 2023, The United States government designated and sanctioned former and current public officials of the DRC Government as generally ineligible for entry into the United States, due to their involvement in internal and interstate corruptions, animal and wildlife trafficking. The sanctions were enacted a day after a call from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called to puts pressure on Rwandan Dictator Paul Kagame, regarding the invasion of the DRC.
Those sanctioned include the former head of DR Congo's wildlife parks agency, Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN), and two ex-colleagues. They have been placed on the US sanctions list for trafficking chimpanzees, gorillas, okapi, and other protected species from the DRC to foreign countries, using falsified permits, in return for bribes.
Specifically, those sanctioned are:
- Cosma Wilungula Balongelwa, the former Director General of Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) and his wife Esther Mwanga Wilungula;
- Leonard Muamba Kanda, the former Department Head of the DRC Management Authority for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and Director of ICCN and his wife Rose Nsele Ngokali;
Augustin Ngumbi Amuri, the Director-Coordinator of the DRC CITES Management Authority and Legal Advisor to ICCN;
- Cosma Wilungula Balongelwa was the head of ICCN for 16 years. He was suspended by Ms. Eve Bazaiba, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Environment, in August 2021 for "poor management".
According to the US State Department, these public designations were made under "Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2023."
Meanwhile, on August 15, 2023, the US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken had a call with Rwandan Dictator Paul Kagame. The call focused on the situation along the border between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
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Rwanda must "cease the support for M23" and "withdraw its troops from the DRC", the US Government Continues to Highlight.
According to sources within Paul Kagame's office, during the call, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed for a de-escalation after a new flare-up in tensions with the Democratic Republic of Congo. The tensions, massacres and humanitarian tragedies followed the latest invasion of East of the DRC by Rwandan military under the cover of M23 rebels. Antony Blinken pushed for a diplomatic solution to the tensions between the DRC and Rwanda.
Rwandan troops, under the cover of M23 rebels, have been responsible for the humanitarian crisis in eastern Congo, including systematic massacres of civilians, especially children and young boys and teenagers, destruction of homes, crops and infrastructures and looting of minerals and other natural resources.
AfroAmerica Network was among the first media to report on the fact that M23 Rebels were just a cover of the Rwandan Troops (see DRC-Uganda-Rwanda - Update: Rwandan Military Under Cover of Congolese M23 Rebels in Eastern DRC, Blame on FDLR and RUD-Urunana Rwandan Rebels, and Coup Attempts). The Rwandan government and military leaders have continued to deny it.
Despite the denials of using the cover of M23 rebels by the Rwandan leader, in the visit to the DRC and the region in August 2022, Antony Blinken confirmed that he found credible the allegations of Rwandan support for the M23 rebels, who relaunched their armed campaign in eastern DRC in late 2021, close to 10 years after they were defeated in another invasion and fled to Rwanda and Uganda. Later the United Nations and European Union also confirmed the allegations.
Rwandan military directly or under the cover of armed groups, or using proxy militia supported, funded, and armed by the Rwanda military have plagued much of eastern DR Congo for three decades, starting in early 1990s to date.
The call and the US sanctions also happen as the United Nations Security Council is still considering sanctions against Rwandan top military leaders involved in the invasion of the DRC, while European Union has already enacted some sanctions (UN - EU- DR Congo - Rwanda: Top Rwandan Military Leaders Sanctioned for Leading Invasion of the DRC).
Hence the call by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, has fueled speculations on the next steps and the actions by the World powers and institutions, especially the United States, the African Union (AU), SADEC, European Union, and the United Nations against the Rwanda government and its military leaders, especially the dictator Paul Kagame and his closest aides.
@AfroAmerica Network 2023
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