Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Congo Hires Israeli Firm to Lobby Trump Administration

Congo Hires Israeli Firm to Lobby Trump Administration


Congolese President Joseph Kabila speaks in Kinshasa
 on July 28, 2006

  • MER Systems hiring U.S.-based lobbyists to advise Congo
  • Lobbyists include member of Trump’s election-campaign team

The Democratic Republic of Congo hired an Israeli security firm to lobby the U.S. government after criticism of President Joseph Kabila’s failure to hold elections and hand over power.
Congo agreed to pay MER Security and Communication Systems Ltd. $5.58 million between Dec. 8, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2017 for policy advice and support in lobbying senior government officials and members of Congress, according to documents published on the U.S. Department of Justice’ website April 28. MER, based in Tel Aviv and whose main business activities are the manufacture, supply and installation of telecommunications and electricity systems, said in the filings it will employ subcontractors to work with the Congolese government.
MER will hire U.S.-based lobbyists, while advising the Congolese government on U.S. concerns relating to African security issues and on the appointment, travel and engagements of a Congolese special envoy to the U.S., according to the filings signed by Omer Laviv, the company’s chief executive officer. Laviv didn’t respond to a message left on his voicemail when Bloomberg sought comment.
Relations between the U.S. and Congo have deteriorated in the past two years amid election delays and security crackdowns on opposition protests in the central African country. Kabila was required by the constitution to step down after elections last year, but the votes were delayed and Kabila held on to power under a contentious December political pact between the ruling party and some members of the opposition.

Targeted Sanctions

Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration imposed targeted sanctions on four Congolese security officials and one government minister last year for their involvement in the repression of political demonstrations. So far, President Donald Trump’s government hasn’t followed suit, although Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has criticized Kabila’s administration, describing Congo to the Council on Foreign Relations in March as a “corrupt” government that “preys on its citizens.”
MER already received $4.5 million of the payment from Congo between December and April to hire U.S. subcontractors, including Adnan Jalil, to lobby on behalf of the government, according to the filings. Jalil was a Congressional liaison for Trump’s election campaign, Politico reported in February. Two calls to Jalil’s company, Aselus Strategies LLC, in Washington weren’t answered when Bloomberg sought comment.
By Thomas Wilson