Post link 01 October 2016, 2:42
Top Congolese Official Blasts Washington for Pulling Embassy Staff’s Family Members

The United States ordered its citizen to leave DR Congo
Rear Admiral John Kirby

In the aftermath of violent political protests in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa and other major cities this month, Washington has now ordered all family members of government personnel stationed in the country to leave, and has halted most U.S. government travel there.

The move came one day after the Department of Treasury slapped sanctions on Major General Gabriel Amisi Kumba and General John Numbi, two officials in Congolese President Joseph Kabila’s inner circle who the U.S. government says have undermined democracy in the large central African nation.

Together, the diplomatic one-two has sparked outrage among Kabila’s allies, who see the sanctions as a personal attack on the president. Critics have accused him of trying to extend his grip on power by refusing to announce a date for presidential elections that initially should have taken place before the end of the year.

In a phone call with Foreign Policy from Kinshasa on Friday, Barnabé Kikaya-bin-Karubi, Kabila’s top diplomatic aide who visited the United States earlier this month to plead with U.S. government officials not to implement the sanctions, said that evacuating family of personnel will damage the country’s economy and could lead to dangerous confusion among Congolese civilians.

“We don’t understand why they are doing it, and we are just asking the U.S. officials to refrain from any action that would create a psychological problem in the heads of the population in the country,” he said. According to Kikaya, sending home personnel’s families implies that “something is about to happen” and will prompt Congolese people “to start guessing” that they are in danger.

The announcement, which was published on the U.S. embassy’s website on Friday, says that individuals began to leave the country on Thursday and that the “potential for civil unrest is high in parts of Kinshasa and other major cities.” But Kikaya insisted in his phone call with FP that he does not “see any tension in the Congo that would justify such an evacuation.”

In an e-mail to FP, a State Department official who declined to be identified said the removal of embassy staff’s families is “a result of the unstable and unpredictable security situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.”

“We have evaluated the situation, taking all factors into account, and have determined, out of an abundance of caution, that ordered[-ing?] departure for Embassy dependents is the most prudent course of action,” he said.

Kikaya also dismissed suggestions that Americans are being sent home out of fear of retaliation after the sanctions were levied on Kabila’s associates.

“We don’t retaliate in a violent manner,” he said. “We consider Americans to be our friends and I don’t see how anybody could react violently towards Americans.”

“The tension is down,” he added. “There’s nothing happening in Congo.”



DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

September 29, 2016

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of continued instability in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The potential for civil unrest is high in parts of Kinshasa and other major cities. As a result of the deteriorating security situation, family members of U.S. government personnel have been ordered to leave the country beginning September 29. Most official U.S. government travel to the DRC has been halted. The U.S. Embassy is able to provide limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in the DRC. This replaces the Travel Warning dated August 8, 2016.

On September 19 and 20, violent clashes around the election process erupted between security forces and demonstrators, resulting in the loss of life and the destruction of property. Very poor transportation infrastructure throughout the country and poor security conditions make it difficult for the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services anywhere outside of Kinshasa.

Armed groups, bandits, and some elements of the Congolese armed forces continue to operate in:
  • North Kivu
  • South Kivu
  • Bas-Uele
  • Haut-Uele
  • Ituri
  • Tanganyika
  • Haut-Lomami

These groups kill, rape, kidnap, pillage, steal vehicles, and carry out military or paramilitary operations in which civilians can be indiscriminately targeted. Kidnapping for ransom is common, particularly in areas north and west of Goma, North Kivu. Congolese military and United Nations forces operate throughout North and South Kivu and near the DRC’s borders with the Central African Republic and the Republic of South Sudan, particularly in and around Garamba National Park. Travelers in the region may encounter troop movements, armored vehicles and attack helicopters.

Travelers are frequently detained and questioned by poorly trained security forces at official and unofficial roadblocks and border crossings throughout the country, especially near government buildings and installations in Kinshasa. Be cautious if you are stopped by security forces. Requests for bribes are extremely common, and security forces have occasionally injured or killed people who refuse to pay. In the past year, several U.S. citizens have been illegally detained by government forces or robbed of their valuables while being searched.

For further information:
  • See the State Department's travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Country Specific Information for Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
  • U.S. citizens who travel to or remain in the DRC despite this Travel Warning are urged to provide their current contact information and next-of-kin information through STEP.
  • Contact the U.S. Embassy in the DRC, located at 310 Avenue des Aviateurs in Kinshasa, at +243-081-884-6859 or +243-081-884-4609 from 7:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Monday-Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday. After-hours emergency number for U.S. citizens is 081-556-0151.
  • Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from other countries from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
  • Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

By Siobhán O'Grady September 30, 2016 - 3:44 pm foreignpolicy.com

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