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EU sanctions Belgian gold trader, rebel chiefs over DR Congo fighting

The EU on Thursday imposed sanctions on a Belgian gold trader, rebel chiefs and a senior army officer for fuelling fighting and human rights abuses in the conflict-wracked DR Congo.

The 27-nation bloc put Antwerp-born businessman Alain Goetz on the asset freeze and visa ban blacklist for profiting from gold mined in rebel-held areas of eastern DRC.

“Goetz is therefore exploiting the armed conflict, instability and insecurity in the DRC through the illicit exploitation and trade of natural resources,” the bloc’s official journal said.

Alongside the Belgian businessman, the EU targeted Willy Ngoma, military spokesman for the M23 rebel group, which has been accused of massacring scores of civilians as it fights the Congolese army.

It also added rebel leader Protogene Ruvugayimikore of the FDLR-FOCA militia and Meddie Nkalubo, a commander in the Islamic State-affiliated ADF.

High-ranking government army officer Joseph Nganzo Olikwa Tipi was blacklisted for abuses committed by the 312th battalion he commanded, “in particular rapes of women between June and December 2021”.

Congolese politician Justin Bitakwira was put on the list for speeches inciting “violence” against the DRC’s Banyamulenge community.

The EU sanctions come after the United States in March sanctioned Goetz and his Uganda-based African Gold Refinery for the “illicit movement of gold valued at hundreds of millions of dollars per year”.