In December 2017 the Democratic Republic of Congo was in ferment. Joseph Kabila, then the president, seemed to be weighing whether or not to stand in an election, even though he should have left office a year before, having served two full terms, his limit under the country’s constitution. In Kinshasa, the capital, Mr Kabila’s allies remarked casually that perhaps the president would stand again. It was at that moment that the American government imposed sanctions on Dan Gertler, an Israeli mining billionaire who is a close friend of Mr Kabila. Steven Mnuchin, the treasury secretary, announced that at the “direction of President Trump”, he was placing sanctions on Mr Gertler, together with 12 other “serious human-rights abusers and corrupt actors.” Mr Trump, he said, was “declaring a national emergency with respect to serious human-rights abuse and corruption around the world.”
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