DRC opposition leader Katumbi blocked at border

2018-08-05 10:10
Moise Katumbi (Fiston Mahamba, AFP)

Moise Katumbi (Fiston Mahamba, AFP)

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Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader Moise Katumbi was on Saturday again blocked from returning home as he attempted to get across the border from Zambia, his supporters said.

Earlier, Katumbi said he was determined to try again to return home to run in presidential elections after being turned back at the frontier on Friday.

On Saturday he appeared to be poised to finally return when Delly Sesanga, secretary-general of Katumbi's Ensemble (Together) coalition, told AFP he was in the process of completing formalities on the Zambian side of the border.

"Nothing can stop a Congolese citizen from returning to his own country," tweeted his spokesman Olivier Kamitatu, adding that he was with Katumbi at the Kasumbalesa crossing, which borders the opposition leader's home Katanga province on the DRC side.

But later Saturday, Kamitatu said in a tweet that the Zambian government "had just officially indicated (to Katumbi) the refusal of the Kinshasa authorities to allow him to cross the border to return to his own country".

In response, DRC government spokesperson Lambert Mende decried "lies and manipulation" in a tweet, without elaborating.

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Katumbi supporters had wanted to go to the town of Kasumbalesa, on the Zambian border, to meet Katumbi and bring him back so he could submit his election candidacy by the deadline on Wednesday.

Katumbi, 53, a wealthy businessman and former governor of the province of Katanga, has been forbidden from entering the DRC and charged with offences against state security, officials said.

He has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since May 2016 after falling out with President Joseph Kabila who has ruled DRC for 17 years.

Katumbi had planned to fly by private jet from Johannesburg to Lubumbashi, the capital of Katanga province, to lodge his application to stand in the long-delayed elections in December - a move that would heap pressure on Kabila.

But the city's mayor refused him entry, while the public prosecutor's office said Katumbi had been charged with "harming the state's domestic and external security" and would be arrested if he returned.

Videos posted online by his aides and others earlier showed Katumbi on the Zambian side of the border, greeting hundreds of supporters from his car.

Peaceful transition of power

"The regime forbids me from landing and barricades the border... My crime? Wanting to enter my country and file my candidacy," Katumbi wrote on Twitter.

"By trying to block me, they want to remove from Congolese their right to real elections. I will fight," he added.

On the Congolese side of the border, security forces responded to protesters who were throwing stones in the air, Congolese police said, adding that a Tanzanian truck driver was slightly injured.

Another rival of Kabila, former warlord and ex-vice president Jean-Pierre Bemba, 55, returned home this week. He officially launched his bid for the presidency on Thursday.

The DRC has never known a peaceful transition of power since it gained independence in 1960 - and some experts fear that the December 23 elections may trigger a bloody conflict.

Kabila, 47, has been at the helm since 2001, presiding over a vast mineral-rich country with a reputation for corruption, inequality and unrest.

He was scheduled to stand down at the end of 2016 after his second elected term, technically the last permitted under the constitution.

Kabila has refused to spell out whether he will seek a new term in the vote.

Read more on:    drc  |  central africa

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