US ready to impose sanctions on people delaying Congo vote

President Joseph Kabila
Updated 12 July 2017

US ready to impose sanctions on people delaying Congo vote

UNITED NATIONS: The US said Tuesday it is ready to impose sanctions on anyone in Congo who stands in the way of presidential elections to be held by the end of the year, which would lead to the country’s first democratic transition of power.
Congo law bars President Joseph Kabila seeking another term but allows him to remain in power until another election can be held. The vote was once scheduled for November 2016, but it was delayed until no later than Dec. 31 this year under an agreement reached last New Year’s Eve.
The head of Congo’s electoral commission announced Friday that it would not be possible to organize a presidential ballot by Dec. 31, drawing sharp criticism Tuesday from members of the UN Security Council who insisted the election take place on time.
US Deputy Ambassador Michele Sison went a step further, demanding that Congo’s electoral commission immediately specify a date for the presidential election. She declared that “election delays cannot continue” and vowed US action if voting does not take place on time.
The US has already imposed sanctions on those who “delay and obstruct” implementation of the New Year’s Eve agreement, Sison said, and the Trump administration is “ready to take additional action to sanction those who stand in the way” of the presidential election.
“The international community must step up and apply more pressure,” not only on Kabila but on the National Independent Electoral Commission, to ensure that voting occurs by Dec. 31, she said.
Sison said the Security Council should also consider targeted sanctions on those people responsible for undermining peace and security in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, the country’s official name.
“Thus far, stakeholders have felt few consequences for perpetuating instability,” she said.
UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix said implementation of the election agreement remains slow and inadequate, and he warned that, “unless political actors demonstrate good faith and political will, the DRC is set to enter another potentially precarious period.”
Lacroix said that during closed Security Council consultations following an open meeting, all 15 council members agreed that, “implementation in full and in good faith of the Dec. 31 agreement is absolutely vital for the future of the DRC.”
He expressed serious concern over recent attacks and instability in eastern Congo as well as violence in the Kasai provinces in the west that “has reached very disturbing levels with killings, daily reports of human rights violations and abuses and discovery of mass graves.”
Lacroix said the UN peacekeeping mission has established a small and mobile presence in various locations in the Kasais to help protect civilians and in those spots “we’ve been able to bring back a measure of stability.”
But, he added, “the current political impasse, the rising insecurity and the worsening human rights and humanitarian situation in the DRC require a concerted response from regional and international partners” aimed at bringing a successful transition and the holding of free elections.
Meanwhile, investigations into the killing of two UN experts have led to 11 new arrests, including eight people identified as “having played a direct role” in the murders, Congo’s ambassador to the UN said Tuesday.
Ambassador Ignace Gata Mavita assured the UN Security Council that “justice will be delivered” for the two experts and for the four Congolese men accompanying them, whose bodies have never been found.
Congolese authorities said in late May that they had 16 suspects in the March deaths of American Michael Sharp and Zaida Catalan of Sweden in the violence-torn Kasai region.
Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said in June that four people had been arrested who were considered “the principal actors.”
The UN is conducting an inquiry, but US Ambassador Nikki Haley called on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last month to initiate a special investigation into the killings.


Kabul investigates deaths of three Afghans in Iran attack

The incident could add to rising tensions between the two countries. (Twitter)
Updated 2 min 56 sec ago

Kabul investigates deaths of three Afghans in Iran attack

  • Wednesday’s incident could add to rising tensions between the two countries following Kabul’s recent allegation that 13 Afghan migrants had drowned on May 1

KABUL: Kabul sent its envoy to Tehran, Ghafoor Liwal, to Iran’s Yazd province on Saturday after reports that at least three Afghan refugees died in a car which was allegedly fired at by Iranian police in the area, officials told Arab News.
“Our ambassador has traveled to Yazd province to probe this incident in the face of reports that Iranian police fired at a car carrying these Afghans,” said Gran Hewad, chief spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Wednesday’s incident could add to rising tensions between the two countries following Kabul’s recent allegation that 13 Afghan migrants had drowned on May 1 when Iranian border guards forced the group into a river at gunpoint.
In a video message posted on the ministry’s website on Friday evening, Liwal said that at least 13 people were in the car when the latest incident took place.
The envoy said he was “seriously working” to determine the circumstances of the incident and also would investigate the drowning claim.
Liwal said Ahmad Tarahumi Bahabadi, deputy governor of Yazd, had confirmed that Iranian police had opened fire on the vehicle after it failed to stop when asked.
“Apparently, this car was used by a human trafficker and was carrying a number of our countrymen. They were confronted by the police, who instructed them to stop, but they did not stop. Police fired on the car and as a result of the shooting a tire was hit,” Liwal said, adding that the vehicle continued to be driven at full speed until the “tire burst and the car caught fire.”
A statement said that the Afghan delegation, led by Liwal, would identify the victims and the wounded. “Survivors in the hospital told us that they had informed the driver about the fire, but unfortunately he did not stop and continued to drive until the car crashed, killing three and severely wounding others,” Liwal said.
The Iranian Embassy in Kabul could not be reached for comment when contacted by Arab News.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), Zabihullah Farhang, told Arab News that the agency had heard about the incident but could not investigate because it had taken place in Iran.

AIHRC chief Sharzad Akbar called for the public release of Iran’s investigation into the drowning of the Afghan migrants and demanded a probe of the latest case.
“The incident in Yazd that led to the burning of passengers in a car needs to be investigated and perpetrators need to be held accountable,” she said in a tweet on Saturday. “Human lives matter. Refugees rights are human rights,” she added. Iran is home to nearly 3 million Afghans, both legal refugees and illegal immigrants. Afghans often use illegal smuggling routes along the 900 km border to travel to Iran in search of work.
However, since the coronavirus outbreak in Iran, where more than 8,000 people have died from the disease, tens of thousands of Afghans have returned home.
Several videos of Wednesday’s incident – shared on social media platforms and viewed by hundreds – show a car ablaze, with a burning body in its boot.
The video received widespread condemnation in Afghanistan, with the hashtag “bring me water I am burning” trending on Saturday.
It follows a video showing a young boy near the vehicle begging for water.
“This is becoming more ugly... complete violation of too many laws & rules... shameful,” Orzala Nimat, a researcher, tweeted on Friday night.
Jalal Barakzay, a 21-year-old university student, wrote on Facebook that Kabul “should hold Iran accountable” for the incident and “other abuses committed by Iran against Afghan refugees.”
In recent years, Iran and Afghanistan have had an uneasy relationship, with Kabul accusing Tehran of using Afghan Shiite migrants to fight proxy wars in the Middle East, as well as providing cash and arms to Taliban insurgents fighting the Afghan government and US-led troops in Afghanistan.
“I do not know what sort of steps Kabul will take if it is proven that Iranian police had deliberately carried this out, but relations will become more abnormal than in the past,” said Taj Mohammad, an analyst, adding that public anger was growing over the number of incidents.
“People are angry, the government in Kabul is under pressure from the public because this is the second reported incident against Afghans in Iran in just over a month,” he added.