Democratic Republic of Congo presidential hopeful Moise Katumbi said he’ll return from exile once he’s convinced long-delayed presidential elections are going to take place.
The 53-year-old former governor of Congo’s copper-rich Katanga province would be the likeliest candidate to replace President Joseph Kabila if he’s allowed to compete in elections scheduled for December, according to a poll published last month.
“The election time isn’t clear yet,” Katumbi said in an interview at a conference in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. “When it becomes clear, I will definitely go back.”
Congo, which hasn’t had a peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960, was supposed to hold elections in November 2016. The electoral commission postponed the vote, citing financial and logistical constraints.
Opposition leaders have long accused Kabila, head of state since 2001, of delaying the vote in order to retain power and change the constitution. “Our constitution is very clear,” Katumbi said. “He has no right to run.”
Security forces have killed more than 300 people in nationwide anti-government protests since January 2015 in the run up to and following the end of Kabila’s second mandate, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Elections are now scheduled for Dec. 23. Last week, a spokesman for Kabila’s ruling coalition said “no other solution is possible” than elections happening this year.
Katumbi has been in self-imposed exiled since May 2016, soon after he split with Kabila and announced an intention to succeed his former ally. A month later he was convicted in absentia for illegally selling a property, while two other investigations remain open — including allegations he violated Congo’s ban on dual citizenship.
A month later he was convicted in absentia for illegally selling a property, while two other investigations remain open — including allegations he violated Congo’s ban on dual citizenship.
Katumbi denies the allegations and says the “fake, bogus” actions are politically motivated.
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