Sanctions Round-Up: August 2020
On 18th August, following months of anti-government protests, Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was overthrown in a coup d’état. Both the US State Department and the African Union were quick to condemn the actions of the military officers involved, expressing their wish for a restoration of a constitutional government. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) similarly conveyed its “deep concern” about the situation, stating that it will continue monitoring events closely.
In the aftermath of the coup, a number of international bodies announced punitive measures against the new authorities in Mali. On 18th August, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suspended Mali from its decision-making bodies, closing its borders with the country and stopping “all economical, trade and financial flows and transactions” between Mali and member states. This led to the West African Monetary and Economic Union and the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) ceasing their operations in Mali. ECOWAS’s heads of state followed this action by calling for the “immediate imposition of targeted sanctions against all military putschists and their partners and collaborators” on 20th August.
Since then, however, it appears that ECOWAS has relaxed its approach to the new authorities in Mali. On 28th August, ECOWAS’s heads of state met again to discuss the situation in Mali and it was decided at this meeting that the sanctions initially imposed are to be “gradually lifted”, subject to review. On the same day, it was reported that BCEAO had partially reopened its branches in the country.
In addition to the actions taken by ECOWAS, the African Union (AU) suspended Mali from the organisation on 19th August and the US suspended military cooperation with its Malian counterparts on 21st August. The EU then followed suit, announcing a temporary suspension of its military and police training missions in Mali on 26th August.
Separately, on 31st August, the UNSC renewed its sanctions regime on Mali by an additional 12 months and the mandate of its panel of experts by 13 months. This means that the measures set out in a 2017 resolution, which include imposing a travel ban and asset freeze on those hindering progress on implementing the Agreement of Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, will continue to be in place for the next year. The panel of experts has been tasked with producing a midterm report no later than 28th February 2021 and a final report no later than 15th August 2021, after which the UNSC will review the panel’s mandate and take appropriate action.
Central African Republic
On 5th August, the UNSC added Bi Sidi Souleman to its Central African Republic (CAR) sanctions list. Souleman is the leader of the militia group Retour, Réclamation, Réhabilitation (3R), which, according to the UNSC, has engaged in serious human rights violations. Although 3R was party to the Political Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in CAR, which was signed in February 2019, it has allegedly engaged in acts violating the agreement. Accordingly, in the view of the UNSC, 3R remains a threat to the peace, stability and security of CAR.
The United Kingdom’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) followed suit, placing Souleman on its sanctions list on 6th August, as did the United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which added him to its sanctions list on 7th August. The US State Department issued a statement following Souleman’s designation, asserting that “Souleymane himself has directly perpetrated torture in CAR”. It also noted that 3R suspended its participation in the implementation of the peace agreement in June 2020.
Separately, the OFSI amended the list entries of six designated individuals, including former President François Bozizé, in line with the amendments made by the UNSC in July. The concerned individuals are still subject to sanctions and the amendments have not materially altered their designations.
On 6th August, OFAC added an alleged “network of smugglers” to its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. This network included three Libyan nationals – Faysal al-Wadi, Nourddin Milood M Musbah and Musbah M Wadi – a Maltese entity – Alwefaq Ltd – and a vessel sailing under the Samoan flag – the Maraya. According to OFAC, al-Wadi operates the Maraya, which has been linked to Alwefaq Ltd; a company allegedly under the influence of the group. In a press release, the US Treasury’s Deputy Secretary Justin G. Muzinich stated that al-Wadi and his associates “have smuggled fuel from Libya and used Libya as a transit zone to smuggle illicit drugs”. The State Department has alleged that the group’s operation “transported drugs between the Libyan port of Zuwarah and the maritime location known as Hurd’s Bank, just outside of Malta’s territorial waters”.
In an unrelated matter, the OFSI amended its listing of Khalifa al-Ghawil; however, the former prime minister of the internationally unrecognised National Salvation Government, which was established in 2014, remains under sanction. The National Salvation Government has been accused of playing a central role in obstructing the establishment of the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), which was formed in 2015 as part of a United Nations led initiative.
On 5th August, OFAC added the influential Zimbabwean businessman, Kudakwashe Regimond Tagwirei, and an entity affiliated with him – Sakunda Holdings – to its SDN list. OFAC has accused Tagwirei and “other Zimbabwean entities” of engaging in “corrupt” practices. Tagwirei, who is known to be close to President Emmerson Mnangagwa and other senior figures in the ruling ZANU-PF, has allegedly “utilized his relationships” to “gain state contracts and receive favored access to hard currency”. According to the US State Department, Tagwirei is being targeted “for materially assisting senior Zimbabwean government officials involved in public corruption”.
In the same action, OFAC deleted the entry for the now-deceased businessman John Bredenkamp and 20 entities associated with him. Bredenkamp died on 18th June 2020 and had been subjected to US sanctions because of his close ties to senior ZANU-PF figures, including President Mnangagwa.
On 17th August, OFAC sanctioned four Ugandan individuals under its Global Magnitsky regime: Patrick Ecobu; Dorah Mirembe; Moses Mukiibi; and Wilson Masalu Musene. OFAC accused the individuals of being involved in a “false adoption scam” regarding the removal of young children from their families under false pretences, before offering them to US families for adoption. The families whose children were taken were described by the US State Department as “vulnerable” and the American families that adopted the children are considered to be “unwitting” participants in the alleged scam. Both Mukiibi and Musene are judges, while Mirembe is a lawyer and Ecobu is her husband, and it has been alleged that these judges and “other Ugandan government officials” were bribed by Mirembe and Ecobu to “arrange the adoption of the children”.
The US State Department announced on 13th August that it had imposed visa restrictions on “multiple” unnamed individuals that it has accused of “undermining Sudan’s civilian-led transitional government”. Although the State Department has not published the names of these individuals, it has indicated that they include “former Bashir-era officials”. It also reaffirmed its “commitment to work with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and the civilian-led transitional government, civil society, and others” ahead of Sudan’s first general election since the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir, which is set to take place in 2022.
Separately, OFAC issued new guidance with respect to Sudan and sanctions relating to the conflict in Darfur. While the new guidance advises that US nationals “are no longer prohibited from engaging in transactions with respect to Sudan or the Government of Sudan that were previously prohibited by the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations”, it also noted that the national emergency with respect to the Sudanese government “remains in effect”. In addition, the guidance clarified that Sudan “remains on the State Sponsor of Terrorism List” and, consequently, “certain prohibitions and licensing considerations still apply”.
On 28th August, the UNSC renewed the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) by an additional 12 months. The council said the mission’s role should consist of “several tasks”, including supporting the Federal Government of Somalia in holding “free, fair, timely, peaceful, transparent, credible and inclusive elections” in 2020/2021. UNSOM was established in 2013 to support the establishment of the Federal Government of Somalia after years of violence and instability in the country.
Elsewhere, the UNSC provided a summary regarding the improvised explosive device (IED) components ban and regulations in place for the exportation of explosive materials to Somalia on 3rd August. This notice included requirements contained within the regulations and member states’ obligations of notification with regards to this matter.