On 1st February, the United Kingdom’s Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (OFSI) added four individuals – Owen Ncube, Anselem Sanyatwe, Godwin Matanga, and Isaac Moyo – to its Zimbabwean sanctions list. All four have been accused of being responsible for “serious human rights violations”. Both Sanyatwe and Ncube have previously been sanctioned by the United States.
Ncube and Moyo – respectively Zimbabwe’s Minister of State for National Security and Director-General of the Central Intelligence Organisation – are both considered by the UK to be responsible for the January 2019 crackdown on protesters by security forces, as well as directing telecommunications provider Econet to suspend internet services that same month. Meanwhile Matanga – the Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Republic Police – is accused of involvement in abuses committed during the post-election protests in August 2018. Sanyatwe – the current Zimbabwean Ambassador to Tanzania – is also considered responsible for those events, due to his previous role as Tactical Commander of the National Reaction Force.
Later in the month, on 19th February, the European Union renewed its sanctions regime on Zimbabwe until 20th February 2022, which consists of an arms embargo and a “targeted assets freeze” against Zimbabwe Defence Industries. In renewing the regime, the Council of the EU noted that “Zimbabwe’s multifaceted and prolonged crisis has further deepened”, particularly with reference to “a proliferation of arrests and prosecutions of journalists, opposition actors and individuals expressing dissenting views”.
The EU’s sanctions on Grace Mugabe, Constantino Chiwenga and Philip Valerio Sibanda have also been renewed, but remain suspended, until the same date. In addition, Perrance Shiri has been de-listed. Shiri, who died in July 2020, was Zimbabwe’s agriculture minister and a former general who was involved in the removal of Robert Mugabe in 2017.
Elsewhere, President Joe Biden continued the US’s national emergency with respect to Zimbabwe, which had been due to expire on 6th March. In determining that the emergency must be extended by an additional 12 months, Biden told Congress that “President Emmerson Mnangagwa has not made the necessary political and economic reforms that would warrant terminating the existing targeted sanctions program”.
The sanctions regime was introduced by President George W. Bush in Executive Order 13288 of 2003. It targeted “certain members of the Government of Zimbabwe and other persons” whose actions and policies “undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic processes or institutions”. Additional measures were added to the regime by the Bush White House in EO 13391 of 2005 and EO 13469 of 2008.
The US took a series of measures during March that targeted the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIL) Central Africa Province (IS-CAP). The first of these on 10th March was to designate ISIL’s affiliate group operating in the Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique, known locally as Ansar al-Sunna and al-Shabaab (no connection to the al-Qaida-linked Somali organisation of the same name).
The group has been listed by the US’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as ISIS-Mozambique, although its exact relationship to the wider network is unclear. It has been designated alongside Abu Yasir Hassan, who is believed to be the group’s leader. The latter’s listing was updated on 25th March to reflect his place of birth as the Pwani Region of Tanzania.
The State Department has designated both the group and its leader as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs). In addition, ISIS-Mozambique has also been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). Ansar al-Sunna reportedly declared its allegiance to ISIL in 2018 and was acknowledged as an “affiliate” by the organisation’s core in August 2019. It is accused of killing “more than 1,300 civilians” since 2017 and is also responsible for the attacks that resulted in the capture of the Mocímboa da Praia port in August 2020.
As part of the same action, OFAC amended the designations of the Congolese and Ugandan rebel group the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and its leader Musa Seka Baluku. Both have been redesignated by the State Department as SDGTs, while the ADF is also an FTO. The group is now primarily referred to as ISIS-DRC by the department and OFAC. The US holds Baluku responsible for “attacks killing over 849 civilians in 2020 alone”.
Baluku was sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), EU and OFSI in February 2020. He, the ADF and five of its other leaders were initially targeted by OFAC in December 2019. The ADF was previously designated by the US under its Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) regime, while Baluku was designated under the Global Magnitsky regime.
Both organisations are associated with IS-CAP; however, according to the State Department, the sub-units within the province should be considered “distinct groups with distinct origins”. Hence, they have been designated separately by the US.
In other news, a Tunisian national named Said ben Abdelhakim ben Omar al-Cherif was removed from the UNSC’s sanctions list on 19th February. This was done following a request submitted through the Office of the Ombudsperson, which considers such requests regarding the UNSC’s ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qaida Sanctions Committee.
In accordance with the UNSC’s action, the UK Treasury also de-listed this individual. According to OFSI’s former listing, al-Cherif was sentenced in Italy in 2008 to eight years and ten months’ imprisonment for “membership of a terrorist association”. He was subsequently deported to Tunisia in 2013.
Global Human Rights
The Council of the EU added the first African targets to its new Global Human Rights sanctions regime on 22nd March. The action involved targets from Libya, South Sudan and Eritrea, all of whom are accused of “serious human rights abuses”.
In Libya, the al-Kani brothers were designated with regards to their roles in the Kaniyat Militia, which has also been sanctioned as an entity. The group has been held responsible for “extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances” in the north-western town of Tarhuna between 2015 and 2020. During this period, Mohammed Khalifa al-Kani was the head of the group and Abderrahim al-Kani was “in charge of internal security”. The former was sanctioned by the US in November 2020, alongside the militia.
Another target was Gabriel Moses Lokujo, the Major General of the South Sudan People’s Defense Forces (SSPDF), who is accused of ordering the abduction and execution of three Sudan People’s Liberation Army in Opposition (SPLA-IO) officers in May 2020. Lokujo, who was a senior military commander of the SPLA-IO at the time, later switched sides in the South Sudanese conflict and pledged his loyalty to the SSPDF and President Salva Kiir.
The final African target of this action was the National Security Office (NSO) of the Eritrean government. Agents of the NSO, which is headed by Major General Abraha Kassa and supervised by the presidency, are accused of committing “arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances of persons and torture”. The EU’s move comes against the backdrop of international condemnation regarding Eritrea’s involvement in the Tigray War in neighbouring Ethiopia.
The UNSC added three individuals – Abukar Ali Adan, Maalim Ayman, and Mahad Karate – to its Somalia sanctions list on 26th February. The trio have been accused of “engaging in or providing support for acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Somalia” and have also been issued with International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) notices. The designations were also adopted by OFSI on 1st March and Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) on 2nd March.
Adan, who was designated by the US State Department in January 2018, is the deputy leader of al-Shabaab and is also linked to other al-Qaida affiliates. In October 2020, it was reported that he had assumed the group’s leadership. Another of the individuals, Ayman, is the founder and leader of Jaysh Ayman, an al-Shabaab unit that is “conducting attacks and operations in Kenya and Somalia”. He was designated by the State Department in November 2020.
The other figure, Karate (who is also known as Abdirahim Mohamed Warsame), is the chief of Amniyat, al-Shabaab’s intelligence wing, which is accused of being “responsible for the  attack on Garissa University College in Kenya”. He was previously designated by the State Department in 2015. The Kenyan military has claimed several times to have killed Karate, although this does not appear to be the case. It was also reported that, in the aftermath of a large truck bombing in Mogadishu in 2019, he had been dismissed by al-Shabaab. However, other sources suggest that the attempts to expel Karate from the organisation failed and that he has since been engaged in a power struggle with the group’s existing leadership.
Militia leader Mahmoud al-Werfalli, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) on war crimes charges, was reportedly shot dead in Benghazi in late March. He was a commander of the Al-Saiqa Brigade, an elite unit of the Libyan military that defected during the 2011 uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s regime. His force was loyal to General Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) during Libya’s second civil war between 2014 and 2020.
The ICC issued arrest warrants for al-Werfalli in both 2017 and 2018, both times accusing him of involvement in executions. In January 2018, a video emerged that showed a man, identified as al-Werfalli, committing summary executions in Benghazi. He was later sanctioned by the US in December 2019 and by the EU in September 2020. At the time of writing, al-Werfalli remains wanted by the ICC, which has not acknowledged his death.
Separately, the Council of the EU is to drop its sanctions against Khalifa al-Ghawil, the former prime minister and defence minister of the internationally unrecognised “General National Congress” (GNC) of Libya. His listing is set to expire on 2nd April 2021. The EU has deemed that the measures are no longer appropriate. A similar action was taken in October 2020 with regards to Agila Saleh Issa and Nuri Abu Sahmain.
Under al-Ghawil’s leadership, the GNC led the self-proclaimed “National Salvation Government”, which attempted to overthrow the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli in 2016. He was initially sanctioned by the EU in March 2016 for “obstructing the formation of a unity government” in Libya. He was also sanctioned by the US a month later, on the grounds that he had “actively worked to obstruct the implementation of the Libyan Political Agreement establishing the GNA”.
In other news, on 11th February, President Biden continued the US’s national emergency with respect to Libya, which had been due to expire on 25th February, by an additional 12 months. Notifying Congress of the measure, the president contended that Libyan assets must be protected from “parties determined to undermine the ongoing United Nations’ peace process”. The sanctions regime was first declared by President Barack Obama, as the First Libyan Civil War began to unfold in EO 13566 of 2011.
Meanwhile, the Council of the EU announced that the mandate of Operation Irini is to be extended until 31st March 2023. The maritime patrol operation was created in 2020 to implement the UN arms embargo on Libya.
Elsewhere, on 1st February, OFSI amended its listing for Abdullah al-Senussi, who remains subject to an asset freeze. The former director of military intelligence during the Gaddafi era was charged with committing crimes against humanity by the ICC in 2011; however, Libyan authorities successfully challenged his extradition. He was sentenced to death in Libya in 2015. Moreover, in December 2020, it was reported that the US had linked him to the Lockerbie bombing of 1988.
In addition, on 18th February, OFSI made minor administrative edits to the listings of two of Gaddafi’s sons – Mutassim and Saif al-Islam – who both remain under sanctions. Mutassim Gaddafi was killed during the Battle of Sirte in 2011, while Saif al-Islam Gaddafi continues to operate in Libya, having been released from custody in 2017. He remains wanted by the ICC.
The Council of the EU has revoked its sanctions framework which targeted those deemed responsible for the “misappropriation of Egyptian state funds”, a reference to former president Hosni Mubarak’s inner circle. The regime was initially adopted in 2011 in the aftermath of the 25th January Revolution. In ending the sanctions regime on 12th March, the EU concluded that it “had served its purpose”.
As a result of this action, all nine individuals targeted under this programme – including the late Hosni Mubarak, his widow and his sons – have been delisted. The European Court of Justice had already in December 2020 annulled the EU’s sanctions against six of the targets. Upon leaving the EU at the end of the same month, the UK did not carry over the Egyptian misappropriation listings into its new sanctions system.
Elsewhere, on 5th February, the EU renewed its terrorist sanctions list for six months. The regime was established by the Council of the EU in 2001, in order to sanction individuals, groups and entities that are allegedly involved in global terrorism. Although the current list does not contain any African nationals, it does contain one African group, which is Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya.
The Egyptian Sunni Islamist group became notorious during the 1990s for a number of violent attacks for which it was either accused or claimed direct responsibility. These included the 1992 assassination of professor Farag Foda, the attempted assassination of President Mubarak during a visit to Addis Ababa in 1995, and the Luxor massacre in 1997.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
On 8th March, the Biden administration re-imposed US sanctions on Dan Gertler, the Israeli mining magnate with major interests in the DRC. Gertler, who was initially sanctioned by the administration of President Donald Trump in 2017, successfully lobbied for these measures to be eased during the final days of the Trump presidency. In revoking the licence issued to him, the State Department remarked that its awarding had been “inconsistent with America’s strong foreign policy interests in combatting corruption around the world”.
In other news, minor amendments were made to the listings of Ntabo Ntaberi and Bosco Ntaganda by OFSI on 18th February. Ntaberi, a former leader of the Nduma Defense of Congo (NDC) militia, was jailed in November 2020 for crimes against humanity. Similarly, Ntaganda, a former leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots (UCP) rebels, was convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity by the ICC and sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment in November 2019. Both are still subject to an asset freeze.
In the first ICC trial of a Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) member, Dominic Ongwen was found guilty on 61 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity – including sexual crimes – committed between July 2002 and December 2005. His crimes were committed as part of the LRA’s rebellion against the Ugandan government. In particular, he was found to be involved in four attacks on internally displaced persons camps. Ongwen has been given until 21st April 2021 to appeal the verdict, which was delivered on 4th February. He is due to be sentenced during the same month.
The ICC issued its warrant for Ongwen’s arrest in July 2005. He was accused of being the Brigade Commander of the Sinia Brigade of the LRA in northern Uganda. Having surrendered himself in the Central African Republic (CAR) in January 2015, he was transferred into the court’s custody and his trial began in December 2016. His case was complicated by the apparent fact that he himself was abducted and conscripted into the LRA as a child soldier in the late 1980s.
On 5th March, the UNSC removed one individual from its Sudan sanctions list. The individual, named in the former listing as Adam Shareif, was supposedly a commander in the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA), a rebel group in Darfur. The UNSC also noted that he reportedly died in 2012. Its action was mirrored by both OFSI and SECO on 8th March. Shareif has been named elsewhere as Adam Yaqub Sherif, in an article that heavily criticised his and others’ inclusion in the UNSC’s sanctions list.
On 29th March, the White House gave notice that the US national emergency with respect to South Sudan – which was due to expire on 3rd April 2021 – is to be continued by an additional 12 months. In notifying Congress of the action, President Biden highlighted “widespread violence and atrocities, human rights abuses, recruitment and use of child soldiers, attacks on peacekeepers, and obstruction of humanitarian operations” as grounds for the emergency’s continuation. The emergency was first declared in EO 13664 by President Obama in 2014.
The Tunisian presidency announced on 11th March that Switzerland had transferred USD 1.27m of funds associated with former president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to the Tunisian central bank. Efforts are ongoing to recover the remainder of the funds of the Ben Ali family that are currently frozen in Swiss bank accounts. The fate of these assets has been complicated by a series of previous court rulings that weakened the EU’s “misappropriation” sanctions regime with regards to Tunisia.
In a related development, the deadline for the Ben Ali family’s funds in Canada to be unfrozen has been extended by five years, effective from 21st March. It has been estimated that the clan’s foreign assets total as much as USD 23bn. Of this, only USD 30m has been recovered since he was deposed in 2011, most of which was from the Lebanese bank accounts of his widow, Leïla Ben Ali.
Central African Republic
On 22nd February, the UNSC amended the listing of Bi Sidi Souleymane, who is better known by his alias, “Sidiki Abass”. His listing was updated by both the UNSC and then OFSI to reflect reports that he had been killed. He was initially designated by the UNSC, OFSI and the OFAC in August 2020.
Abass is the leader of the Retour, Réclamation, Réhabilitation (3R) rebel group, which has been participating in the CAR Civil War since 2015. Amid violence that broke out in December 2020, the Central African government announced that he had been killed during a battle in Bossembélé; a claim that was denied by the 3R and local reporters. His current fate remains uncertain.
OFSI amended the listing of Mamadu Ture Kuruma on 18th February, in order to correct the general’s name. Kuruma, as the army’s deputy chief-of-staff, was one of the leaders behind the military coup d’état that seized power amidst the 2012 Guinea-Bissau presidential election. He remains under sanction.
The EU’s list of non-cooperative jurisdictions for tax purposes was revised on 22nd February, with Seychelles remaining as Africa’s only present jurisdiction. The archipelagic nation was initially blacklisted by the EU in February 2020, due to its “harmful preferential tax regime”.