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DRC opposition politician to be quizzed over 'SA mercenaries'

09 May 2016, 15:40

Kinshasa - Opposition politician Moise Katumbi will appear before a prosecutor in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday over government allegations he recruited foreign mercenaries.

Katumbi - who plans to run against President Joseph Kabila in elections due this year - has been summoned by the public prosecutor in Lubumbashi in the southeast of the country as part of an inquiry into his alleged use of mercenaries.

"He has absolutely nothing to hide," said Olivier Kamitatu, of G7, a coalition of seven opposition parties supporting Katumbi's candidature.

Kamitatu called for international observers to be present at the hearing to avoid any miscarriage of justice.

Katumbi, 51, who went over to the opposition in September 2015 after resigning as governor and quitting the president's party, is a major figure in the political scene of the giant central African country.

A wealthy businessman, he is also head of the prestigious Tout-Puissant Mazembe football club, three-time winner of the African Champions League.

On Wednesday, Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba said he had ordered a probe into the allegations that Katumbi had recruited foreign mercenaries including Americans and South Africans.

'Grotesque lie'

Katumbi described the accusations as a "grotesque lie", saying his opponents were "simply looking to harm me" and that he would never take up arms to secure power.

The same day, Katumbi confirmed he would accept an opposition coalition's nomination as its presidential candidate.

DRC authorities are under pressure from the international community to hold the presidential poll as planned in November before Kabila's second - and constitutionally last - mandate ends.

The following day Katumbi asked the UN mission in the country for protection, saying he felt he was "in danger".

He said his home had been surrounded by security forces and two of his bodyguards had been arrested.

The DRC has been in crisis since Kabila's re-election in late 2011 in polls marred by irregularities and massive fraud. His second term expires in December and the constitution bars him from standing again.

Last month police in the southeast of the country fired tear gas to break up a demonstration by 5 000 people in the latest unrest triggered by fears that Kabila plans to extend his rule into a third term.

Katumbi's appeal for UN protection came on the same day former lawmaker Vano Kiboko was released from prison after serving a 16-month sentence for "inciting tribal hatred".

Kiboko, a Katumbi ally, had opposed a revision of the constitution allowing Kabila to run for a third term. He was convicted and sentenced last year.


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