Corruption: US sanctions Guinea’s Conde, Keita’s son in Mali

By Julian Pecquet
Posted on Friday, 9 December 2022 17:55

Alpha Condé in January 2020 in Britain. © Henry Nicholls/REUTERS

The US administration under President Joe Biden has slapped financial sanctions on Guinea’s former President Alpha Conde and the son of Mali’s former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to mark International Anti-Corruption Day on Friday 9 December.

Conde was deemed responsible for “serious human rights abuse” linked to the slaying of more than a dozen opposition supporters in the run-up to the March 2020 constitutional referendum allowing him to run for a third term and during the presidential election later that year. According to the US Treasury Department, in early 2020 “Conde ordered ministers to create a police unit to respond to anti-Conde protesters, with violence if necessary.”

As for Karim Keita, he is accused of using his position overseeing Mali’s defence spending as president of the Security and Defence Commission of the Malian National Assembly from 2014 to 2020 to “receive bribes, assign contracts to affiliates who subsequently paid him kickbacks, and embezzle government funds by overpaying on contracts for materiel.” He is also alleged to have arranged the abduction, torture, and apparent murder of Birama Toure, a reporter investigating Keita’s involvement in corruption.

By exposing the egregious behaviour of these actors, we can help disrupt their activities, dismantle their networks, and starve them of resources.

“Corrupt actors and human rights abusers both rely on deficiencies in the international financial system to perpetrate their activities,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement announcing the sanctions.

“Over the past year, Treasury has made combatting corruption and serious human rights abuse a top priority, including through the use of financial sanctions and addressing vulnerabilities in the US and international financial systems. By exposing the egregious behaviour of these actors, we can help disrupt their activities, dismantle their networks, and starve them of resources.”

Sahel strategy

Both Conde and Keita were deposed amid a series of military coups that have wracked the Sahel over the past couple of years, highlighting the link between government graft and political instability in the region.

The Biden administration in turn has made good governance a centrepiece of its security strategy in the Sahel – and in Africa more broadly – and is expected to hammer home the point during its US-Africa Leaders Summit next week.

The Treasury Department sanctions block all property and interests in property that are in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons.

  • The Office of Foreign Assets Controls (OFAC) is also designating Konijane Strategic Marketing in Côte d’Ivoire, a company Keita set up after fleeing Mali following his father’s ouster in August 2020.

Both men were designated under Executive Order 13818, which was signed by former President Donald Trump in December 2017. The order is tied to the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a 2016 law providing the executive branch with expanded authority to slap targeted financial sanctions and visa restrictions on foreign individuals and entities found to have committed human rights violations or engaged in corrupt practices.

Fighting the good fight

In addition to the new sanctions, the Biden administration also recognised eight anti-corruption champions “who are changing the world for the better through their work to fight for transparency and accountability.”

Two are from Africa: Jean de Dieu Rakotondramihamina of Madagascar and Janet Zhou of Zimbabwe.

Rakotondramihamina is the president of Madagascar’s Court of Accounts. According to the US Embassy in Madagascar, he was recognised for his “unwavering commitment to defending transparency, good governance, and the rule of law and his willingness to implement reforms designed to improve the Court of Accounts effectiveness.”

“Through his leadership and direction, the Court of Accounts conducted a series of complex investigations, uncovering extensive evidence of widespread fraud, waste, and abuse.”

Zhou was selected “for her efforts to increase citizen engagement to demand accountability and transparency in Zimbabwe” as executive director of the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development, a State Department spokesperson told The Africa Report. “Through the #HowFar? campaign, Zhou raised awareness of the government’s constitutional and legal responsibilities, encouraged prosecution of corrupt officials, and advocated for public discussions on transparency and the use of public funds.”

Her selection comes as the Biden administration has invited Zimbabwe to participate in next week’s summit despite US sanctions dating back to the Robert Mugabe era.

“While we are recognising these eight champions,” the State Department spokesperson said, “we are honored to work hand-in-hand with many other reformers around the world, and we celebrate all the unsung heroes who are striving to make a difference.”

Prior to the recognition ceremony, the honourees visited St. Petersburg, Florida and Washington, D.C as part of a two-week International Visitor Leadership Program to engage with American counterparts committed to countering corruption.

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