Just weeks after the Congressional hearing and the lobbying by the NGO, Obama signed a Continuation of the 2006 Executive Order 13413.
The door was opened for the OFAC sanctions.
United Nations Sanctions Follow
On November 21, 2012, the UN Security Council slapped its own sanctions on the M23 Congo rebels. The Huffington Post summed it up in a news item.
The council demanded that the M23 rebels withdraw from Goma, disarm and disband, and insisted on the restoration of the crumbing Congolese government authority in the country's turbulent East. The resolution adopted imposes targeted sanctions, including a travel ban and assets freeze, on the M23 rebel group leadership.
Treasury Sanctions and a Warning
On January 3, 2013, Treasury leveled its own sanctions, including a scary warning to US citizens. "As a result of today's action, U.S. persons are prohibited from providing any support to M23 and the FDLR. Additionally, any assets of the designated entities within U.S. jurisdiction must be frozen. "
Even as a journalist, I was concerned enough to seek reassurance that the mere writing about the sanctions, timelines, lobbying and disputed reports would not land me in trouble--sobering thoughts for an American citizen to have. Could I still interview members of the M23 to get their side of the story?
Finally, on January 9 2013, Hostmonster.com suspended the web address of M23 (m23mars.org) when it realized M23 was on the sanctions list.
What About the People of Congo?
The bottom line is that stability in Congo is totally dependent on the UN peacekeeping force, MONUSCO, which at an annual cost of $1.3 billion has so far failed to make a difference. MONUSCO itself been accused of rape and sexual abuse.
The Congolese army also continues to be a predatory force, but no sanctions have been leveled against Congo or the UN. "The Congolese Army-- poorly led and rarely paid--will continue to be a predator to, rather than a protector of, the population."
What prevents any entity, foreign or domestic, from pointing the finger at anyone of us?
Do we stand afraid to speak up that we may end up on a "list?" In these times of instant news and social networking, losing access to an evolving communications platform can be as effective as the medieval practice of cutting out a person's tongue.
Note: We contacted the offices of Reps. Tom Marino, Karen Bass and Chris Smith asking for data on how many calls they received (if any) on the lobbying campaign by Friends of the Congo, but have not yet received replies to our emails. Phone contacts led to suggestions that we email the question.
Cross posted at LAPROGRESSIVE