The US Treasury is taking action against African political and business leaders, and businesses linked to them, over accusations of humans rights abuse and corruption. The action follows an executive order (EO) by signed by president Donald Trump on Dec. 20.
As part of the process of “shutting these bad actors out of the U.S. financial system,” the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) will freeze all of the individual’s assets within its jurisdiction and will prohibit Americans from engaging in transactions with them.
It is the first time the US is applying these penalties since the law was passed last year. The sanctions also include Myanmar general Maung Maung Soe, who is said to have overseen this year’s crackdown against the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Among those sanctioned is Yahya Jammeh, the ousted longtime leader of Gambia. Jammeh is currently in exile in Equatorial Guinea after losing in the presidential elections last year. Much of Jammeh’s tenure was trailed by allegations of human rights abuses as the autocrat held onto to power for more than two decades.
Jammeh was also linked with corrupt dealings and has been accused of looting the state coffers before finally giving up power earlier this year. One of the properties amassed by Jammeh is a $3.5 million 9,000 sqaure feet home in Potomac, Maryland.
The executive order also sanctions Israeli billionaire Dan Gertler over his dealings in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Gertler is believed to have exploited his close friendship with DR Congo president Joseph Kabila and, as a result, has “amassed his fortune through hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of opaque and corrupt mining and oil deals,” the US Treasury said in a statement.
The scale of corruption in resource-rich DR Congo was highlighted in a July report by Global Witness, the anti-corruption charity, which showed that, between 2013 and 2015, up to $1.3 billion of mining revenues did not reach the treasury. As a result of large scale corruption, Congolese nationals are among the world’s poorest.
Benjamin Bol Mel, a former principal financial adviser to Salva Kiir, president of South Sudan, has also been sanctioned by the US Treasury. ABMC Thai-South Sudan Construction Company Limited, a company controlled by Bol Mel is believed to have been awarded contracts worth tens of millions of dollars by the South Sudanese government, in some cases without “a competitive process.”
Also, despite being barred by the constitution from doing business outside the government, several officials in South Sudan have been linked with Bol Mel’s company. The US Treasury will also sanction more than 20 companies linked to Jammeh, Gertler and Bol Mel.