US State Department imposes visa ban on several DRCongo officials

Democratic Republic of Congo's President Joseph Kabila addresses a news conference at the State House in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo January 26, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 June 2018
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US State Department imposes visa ban on several DRCongo officials

  • The visa ban comes after the US Treasury sanctioned Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler on June 15, who it said had amassed a fortune through corrupt mining and oil deals in the DRC, using his close friendship with Kabila
  • Several senior Congolese officials involved in corruption travel frequently to the US, so the visa ban is an important step

WASHINGTON: The United States said on Thursday it had imposed visa bans on several senior officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo for corruption tied to the country’s electoral process to send a “strong signal” about the need for a peaceful transfer of power.
Washington declined to identify the individuals, saying it was not obligated to reveal them based on “foreign policy considerations.”
“Today’s actions send a strong signal that the US government is committed to fighting corruption, to supporting credible elections that lead to DRC’s first peaceful and democratic transfer of power,” the State Department said.
The move comes before elections scheduled in DRC for Dec. 23. There are concerns, however, that President Joseph Kabila, who succeeded his assassinated father Laurent in 2001, could delay the vote to seek a third elected term.
The visa ban comes after the US Treasury sanctioned Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler on June 15, who it said had amassed a fortune through corrupt mining and oil deals in the DRC, using his close friendship with Kabila.
Sasha Lezhnev, deputy policy director at the nonprofit rights group Enough Project called Thursday’s visa ban an important step “to dissuade Kabila from putting his name on the ballot and help ensure a credible election.”
“Several senior Congolese officials involved in corruption travel frequently to the US, so the visa ban is an important step,” said Lezhnev. “They or the businesses they partner with also use US banks to process corrupt commercial deals, so the US and EU should enact stronger sanctions on their corporate networks to target their assets.”


Sri Lanka president seeks talks to end power struggle

Updated 6 min 57 sec ago
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Sri Lanka president seeks talks to end power struggle

  • For 19 days, Sri Lanka had two claimants to the prime minister’s post
  • Both sides have also warned that a prolonged power vacuum could lead to unrest

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday called crucial talks with political leaders in a bid to end a power struggle with the prime minister he sacked last month.
The Indian Ocean nation has been paralyzed since October 26 when Sirisena deposed Ranil Wickremesinghe as premier and replaced him with a former rival Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Wickremesinghe insists he is still prime minister while parliament voted twice last week to reject Rajapaksa.
“President Sirisena will chair a meeting of representatives of political parties in parliament today,” his office said in a statement.
“The president has called this meeting in order to end the current political unrest and conflict situation and to allow the normal functioning of the parliament.”
Brawling erupted in parliament with Rajapaksa loyalists smashing furniture, throwing chilli powder and projectiles at rivals in a bid to disrupt a no-confidence motion against the disputed prime minister.
After the second vote against Rajapaksa on Friday, Wickremesinghe demanded that his government be restored, but there has been no response from Sirisena yet.
Wickremesinghe has said Sri Lanka needs “stability” and that he was ready to work with Sirisena despite the personality clash that triggered the constitutional crisis.
After sacking Wickremesinghe on October 26, Sirisena dissolved parliament on November 9, but the Supreme Court suspended his action and restored parliament pending a full hearing into the legality of his actions.
For 19 days, Sri Lanka had two claimants to the prime minister’s post, but on Thursday parliament speaker Karu Jayasuriya held that he would recognize neither as premier. Officially, Sri Lanka no longer has a government.
Legislators say that with the administration at a stand still key sectors such as tourism are taking a serious battering.
Both sides have also warned that a prolonged power vacuum could lead to unrest.