The mogul of the Democratic Republic of the Congo seeks to return to participate in a key presidential poll

  Moise Katumbi

Moise Katumbi

Billionaire and political heavyweight Moise Katumbi said Monday he had asked for permission to return to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) this week to participate in the presidential election in one of the most African Volatile countries.

Katumbi said in a telephone interview that he was in Johannesburg and had written to civil aviation authorities to ask permission for his private plane to land on Friday in Lubumbashi, capital of Katanga province.

Katumbi (53), a former governor of the province rich in minerals, has been living in self-imposed exile in Belgium since May 2016 after having fought with President Joseph Kabila.

He has promised to return for the December 23 elections despite having received a three-year prison sentence in an alleged case of property fraud.

He is also being tried for allegedly hiring mercenaries and for possessing an Italian passport. The Congolese law does not allow double. nationality.

Katumbi's lawyer, Eric Dupond-Moretti, said in Paris last week that the ongoing cases were a "judicial sham" and added: "If he is arrested, the decision will be strictly arbitrary."

Kabila, a former soldier, has been in power since 2001, when he replaced his murdered father.

He chaired a government widely criticized for being corrupt and incompetent, and was due to step down in December 2016 at the end of his second term in office.

But he has remained in power until a successor is elected, provoking street protests that have been bloody repressed.

Kabila has promised to respect the constitution but has not yet explained whether he will compete in the elections, nor yet, members of the government and members of his party said on Monday that he had asked his allies to suggest a possible candidate.

"He wants each group (political pro-Kabila) to present four months in the next 48 hours so that he can choose the candidate for the Common Front of Congo (FCC)," said a minister, who spoke on condition of anonymity. .

The FCC was created – a "grand electoral political coalition" by the cabinet earlier this year "to provide support for a single candidate" for the elections.

He has named Kabila as his "moral authority".

Both Katumbi, born to a Greek entrepreneur father and a Congolese mother, and Kabila come from Katanga, an expanding region the size of Spain, and were once allies.

The vast province is a microcosm of some of the problems of the DRC: an explosive mixture of political rivalry intertwined with personal economic interests.

Katumbi's assets include the Congolese soccer club TP Mazembe, which won the Caf Champions League.

Another possible opponent of Kabila is former war chief and former vice-president Jean-Pierre Bemba (55), who in June was acquitted of war crimes. in The Hague.

He has promised to return to Kinshasa on Wednesday to present his electoral candidacy. Candidates must be physically in the country to submit their applications.

His party previously said it would arrive in Gemena, a city in its northwest bastion, on Tuesday. But on Monday he said he had not had the flight authorization to land there. – AFP

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