The Democratic Republic of Congo's president and commander in chief, Joseph Kabila, has promoted two generals long linked to serious human rights abuses. The new appointments, announced on the weekend, heighten concerns of more repression and abuse in the weeks ahead, as Kabila ponders his plans ahead of elections scheduled for December 23.
Gen. Gabriel Amisi, known as "Tango Four," was named the new deputy army chief of staff in charge of operations and intelligence. Forces under Amisi's control have long been involved in serious human rights abuses in eastern Congo, including widespread killings, summary executions, rapes, pillage, and trafficking of minerals. Over the past four years, he has commanded troops involved in the violent repression of political demonstrations and mobilized youth to disrupt peaceful protests. Amisi was also implicated in the deployment of former rebel M23 fighters in the capital, Kinshasa, to crack down on protesters in December 2016.
Gen. John Numbi, named the new inspector general of the army, has also long been linked to abuse. In 2007 and 2008, police under his command used excessive and unnecessary lethal force to suppress the Bundu dia Kongo (BDK) politico-religious movement in Bas Congo, killing more than 200 people and systematically burning homes and torturing suspected BDK sympathizers. In 2010, Numbi was implicated in the double murder of prominent human rights defender Floribert Chebeya and his driver Fidèle Bazana. Following a widespread outcry in Congo and abroad, Numbi was suspended as national police inspector, but never investigated. Although he no longer held an official position, several government and security force officials told Human Rights Watch that he remained a close adviser to Kabila and played an influential role in the former Katanga province, including by threatening and repressing the political opposition.
The United States and the European Union imposed targeted sanctions against both Amisi and Numbi in 2016 for their alleged role in serious abuses.
These promotions are an affront to the victims of abuses in Congo and their family members. They reflect a system in which human rights violators are rewarded instead of being held to account, fueling the cycles of violence and impunity that have plagued the country for far too long.