EU blacklists nine more Congo officials over rights, elections

BRUSSELS, May 29 (Reuters) - The European Union slapped sanctions on nine more Congo officials on Monday over “obstruction of the electoral process and related human rights violations” in the central African state, where President Joseph Kabila has overstayed his mandate.

The nine include Congo’s current and former interior ministers, the government spokesman and officers of the security forces. They join another seven people already on the EU blacklist which subjects them to asset freezes and travel bans.

Political tensions in Democratic Republic of Congo are running high after security forces killed dozens during protests over election delays last year.

Kabila, in power since 2001, refused to step down and hold a national vote after his mandate expired in December. He has blamed election delays on budgetary constraints and the challenge of registering millions of voters.

The president struck a deal with the opposition at the end of last year to hold elections by the end of 2017, but talks to implement the agreement broke down in March.

Worsening militia violence in recent months has raised fears of a backslide toward the civil wars of the turn of the century that killed millions of people in Congo.

The EU said Congo should hold elections as soon as possible, and expressed concern about excessive use of force by state authorities in managing the security crisis, as well as restrictions on media and bans on demonstrations.

Among the new listings are Evariste Boshab, a close ally of Kabila as his former interior and security minister, and Ramazani Shadari, who holds the job currently and oversees the police.

Also blacklisted were Lambert Mende, the long-serving government spokesman for Kabila, and the head of intelligence, Kalev Mutondo.

Congo mines significant amounts of cobalt, gold, diamonds, copper and tin but remains one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s poorest countries. (Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, additional reporting by Joe Bavier; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)