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BREAKING NEWS

U.S. imposes travel restrictions on DR Congo officials for vote abuses

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department on Friday imposed travel restrictions against five top officials from the Democratic Republic of Congo, including the heads of the country's electoral commission and constitutional court, accusing them of corruption during recent presidential elections.

The surprise move comes a month after the United States welcomed the constitutional court's ruling that opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi won the presidential election, and declared that Washington was willing to work with the new government.

"These individuals enriched themselves through corruption, or directed or oversaw violence against people exercising their rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression," the State Department said in a statement.

"They operated with impunity at the expense of the Congolese people and showed a blatant disregard for democratic principles and human rights."

The U.S. travel ban affects Corneille Nangaa, president of the country's election commission CENI; his deputy Norbert Basengezi Katintima and advisor Marcellin Mukolo Basengezi; Aubin Minaku Ndjalandjoko, president of DRC's National Assembly; and Benoit Lwamba Bindu, head of the constitutional court. 

The move also bans travel by their families to the United States.

Tshisekedi's victory as marred by accusations that he struck a backroom deal with former President Joseph Kabila in Congo's first transfer of power via an election in 59 years of independence.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Bill Trott and Richard Chang)

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