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.

Trump finally dons mask as US sets new virus case record

Updated 12 July 2020

Trump finally dons mask as US sets new virus case record

  • “I’ve never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place,” POTUS tells reporters
  • The US is the worst hit by COVID-19, with more than 3.2 million cases and at least 134,000 deaths as of Saturday

BETHESDA, USA: President Donald Trump finally yielded to pressure and wore a face mask in public for the first time on Saturday as the US posted another daily record for coronavirus cases, while Disney World reopened in a state hit hard by the pandemic.

White House experts leading the national fight against the contagion have recommended wearing face coverings in public to prevent transmission of the illness.

But Trump had repeatedly avoided wearing a mask, even after staffers at the White House tested positive for the virus and as more aides have taken to wearing them.

Hours after the World Health Organization urged countries to step up control measures to rein in the disease, Trump donned a dark mask bearing the presidential seal as he visited wounded military veterans at the Walter Reed military hospital in a suburb outside Washington.

“I’ve never been against masks but I do believe they have a time and a place,” he told reporters as he left the White House.

Trump is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in the polls ahead of a November election and surveys show most Americans are unhappy with how he has handled the public health crisis.

But the president has continued to praise his own response to the pandemic despite a cascade of figures showing the extent of the disease’s spread across the United States.


Record-breaking numbers

The country posted yet another daily record of confirmed cases on Saturday night, with 66,528 new infections, while the death toll rose by almost 800 to nearly 135,000.

As of Saturday, the US had recorded more than 3.2 million coronavirus cases and at least 134,000 deaths from the disease. 

It is the country worst hit by the illness, followed by Brazil — which surpassed 70,000 deaths on Friday.

The coronavirus pandemic has infected over 12.5 million people, killed over 560,000 and triggered massive economic damage since the disease was first detected in China late last year.

In Florida, where nearly one in six of those new infections were recorded, the Walt Disney World theme park partially reopened after four months of shutdown prompted by the virus.

Hundreds of people queued to enter the park in Orlando, some sporting Mickey ears but all wearing face masks, with social distancing and other hygiene precautions also in place.

Days earlier, top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said that Florida had begun reopening before meeting the criteria that would have enabled it to do so safely.


Aggressive approach urged

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries to adopt an aggressive approach to tackling the virus, citing successful mitigation efforts in Italy, South Korea and elsewhere.

“Across all walks of life, we are all being tested to the limit,” he told a virtual news conference in Geneva on Friday.
“Only aggressive action combined with national unity and global solidarity can turn this pandemic around,” he added.

Elsewhere, French officials warned of rising cases in metropolitan France as the death toll there topped 30,000.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu admitted a decision to allow bars and other businesses to reopen may have come “too soon” after his country reported a record 1,500 new infections on Friday.

Australian authorities said they would slash by half the number of people allowed to return from overseas each day after a fresh surge in cases that saw a lockdown imposed on Melbourne, the country’s second-largest city.

In Hong Kong, a spike has marked a setback for the city after daily life had largely returned to normal, with restaurants and bars resuming regular business and cultural attractions reopening.

Schools in the city will be closed from Monday after the city recorded “exponential growth” in locally transmitted infections.