Washington, D.C., August 24, 2023 — In a decisive move aimed at quelling the spiraling violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against six individuals yesterday. The sanctions target individuals from various armed factions involved in the DRC conflict, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), M23, the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), and the Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF).
Brian E. Nelson, the Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, emphasized that the sanctions are a demonstration of the United States’ commitment to peace, human rights, and stability in the region. “Treasury will not hesitate to hold accountable actors committing human rights abuses and exacerbating this already dire humanitarian situation,” Nelson stated.
Among those targeted are Apollinaire Hakizimana, Brigadier General Sebastian Uwimbabazi, and Ruvugayimikore Protogene from FDLR; Bernard Byamungu from M23; Colonel Salomon Tokolonga from FARDC; and Brigadier General Andrew Nyamvumba from RDF. These sanctions come in the wake of a conflict that escalated in November 2021, forcing over 800,000 people to flee their homes.
Why the Sanctions?
The FDLR and M23 have long been embroiled in heinous human rights abuses including sexual violence and recruitment of child soldiers. FARDC and RDF have also contributed to the destabilization of the DRC by forming coalitions against M23 and launching attacks, respectively.
Legal and Financial Repercussions
The sanctions imply a freezing of all U.S. assets belonging to these individuals and bar American citizens from engaging in transactions with them. Financial institutions found to be in violation risk being subject to further sanctions and enforcement actions.
Toward a Resolution
The United States stands in solidarity with the people of the DRC and remains committed to holding accountable those responsible for sexual violence and other abuses, as outlined in a Presidential Memorandum signed by President Biden in November 2022.
The Treasury Department underlined that the purpose of these sanctions is not punitive but to prompt a positive change in behavior, emphasizing the fluidity of OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List). The list is as much about adding as it is about removing names, contingent upon changes in conduct that promote peace and security.