The plans for exiled politician Moïse Katumbi to return to the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday are in question, after local authorities said his plane from South Africa cannot arrive at the Lubumbashi airport without necessary approval of aviation authorities.
Katumbi’s “Together for Change” coalition party announced on Monday that their candidate would return to the country’s second-largest city, in the far southeast near the Zambian border. In a letter sent from Kinshasa, they appealed to civil and military authorities to assure the security of his delegation.
The candidate, whose plans to challenge President Joseph Kabila have met with a number of barriers, needs to register by the August 8 deadline to be eligible for the long-delayed presidential election. Katumbi has nonetheless vowed to return, according to a Jeune Afrique report.
This latest news comes as the Congolese Association for Access to Justice (ACAJ), citing reliable sources, condemned Thursday’s issue of a new arrest warrant for Katumbi pending his arrival.
ACAJ also has spoken out against the Congolese government’s restrictions on Jean-Pierre Bemba, who arrived in Kinshasa on Wednesday. The Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) party candidate has been prevented from returning to his home and family.
In mounting his challenge, Katumbi has faced questions on whether or not he remains a Congolese citizen eligible to run for office. Katumbi held Italian citizenship from 2000 to 2017, with the Congolese government arguing that he relinquished his right to run and refusing to issue a passport.
Katumbi has lived in exile since the Kabila administration convicted him in absentia to three years in prison on real estate fraud – a charge Katumbi denies as politically motivated. His campaign also has denied new accusations that he planned to overthrow the Kabila regime by force.
Image: Together for Change file