EU sanctions Belgian trader, M23 rebel, others over DRC fighting

Eight people were added to the sanctions list, including rebels, a politician, an army member and a foreign businessman.

A Congolese rebel fighter with a gun
Armed conflict has upended tens of thousands of lives in the DRC [File: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters]

The European Union has imposed sanctions on a Belgian gold trader, rebel chiefs and Congolese army and political figures for fuelling fighting and human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

On Thursday, the EU said it added eight people to its list of sanctions over violence in the conflict-wracked eastern region. It also extended existing sanctions against nine others.

The 17 people are now subject to EU restrictive measures until December 2023, which consist of a travel ban and an asset freeze, the Council of the EU said in a press statement.

The eight newly listed individuals include five members of armed groups – namely ADF, CODECO, FDLR, Mai-Mai Yakatumba and M23 – a member of the Congolese army, a Congolese politician and a Belgian businessman.

“Most of them are responsible for serious human rights violations and abuses and for sustaining the armed conflict in the DRC. Others have been listed for inciting violence and exploiting the conflict through the illicit exploitation or trade of natural resources,” the statement said.

“Today’s decision was taken in the context of the EU’s integrated approach in support of the efforts by the DRC authorities to build a lasting peace and stabilise the Eastern part of the country,” it added.

The 27-nation bloc put Antwerp-born businessman Alain Goetz on the asset freeze and visa ban blacklist farmed conflict in the DRCor profiting from gold mines controlled by militia groups in DRC’s South Kivu province.

“Goetz is therefore exploiting the armed conflict, instability and insecurity in the DRC through the illicit exploitation and trade of natural resources,” the bloc’s official journal said.

Alongside the Belgian, the EU targeted Willy Ngoma, military spokesman for the M23 rebel group, which has been accused of massacring civilians as it fights the Congolese army.

It also added rebel leader Protogene Ruvugayimikore of the FDLR-FOCA militia and Meddie Nkalubo, a commander in the ISIL (ISIS)-affiliated ADF.

High-ranking government army officer Joseph Nganzo Olikwa Tipi was blacklisted for abuses committed by the 312th battalion he commanded, “in particular rapes of women between June and December 2021”.

Congolese politician Justin Bitakwira was put on the list for speeches inciting “violence” against the DRC’s Banyamulenge community.

The EU sanctions come after the United States in March sanctioned Goetz and his Uganda-based African Gold Refinery for the “illicit movement of gold valued at hundreds of millions of dollars per year”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies