DRC crisis escalates after onslaught on Katumbi backers
From JEAN KASSONGO in Kinshasa, DRC
KINSHASA- THE emergence of prominent politician and businessman Moise Katumbi to challenge Joseph Kabila for the Presidency of the Democratic Republic of Congo has sparked a crackdown on the former’s supporters.
This has worsened the crisis in the central African worsening ahead of elections constitutionally set for November but looking increasingly unlikely.
Katumbi last September defected from Kabila’s party in protest of his plans to cling to power.
Some 30 associates of his and other opposition party members have been arrested.
Investigation into Katumbi have been announced for his alleged “recruitment of mercenaries, (including) several retired American soldiers.”
Rights groups say the charges are politically motivated.
Katumbi’s former cabinet director; six employees and two sons have been arrested.
In the run-up to his confirmation as a presidential candidate, police fired teargas at Katumbi and a large crowd of peaceful demonstrators in Lubumbashi.
Two opposition party headquarters were recently vandalised.
Parties had organized public meetings in cities to commemorate the country’s multiparty democratization process, which began 26 years ago.
The opposition also sought to use the meetings to protest attempts to extend Kabila’s stay in power beyond his constitutionally mandated two-term limit, which ends on December 19. The meetings in Kinshasa, the capital, and the eastern cities of Goma and Bukavu proceeded peacefully.
A similar meeting in Lubumbashi had been organized by the G7, a platform of seven political parties dismissed from Kabila’s majority coalition in September 2015 after publicly calling for presidential elections on time and Kabila, in power since 2001, to choose a successor.
G7 announced their support for Katumbi as a presidential candidate.
“The arrests and attacks in Lubumbashi appear to be more than just the usual police harassment, but targeted actions against a presidential aspirant and close supporters,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa Director at Human Rights Watch.
More than 40 people were killed in January following violent protests against Kabila’s plans to extend his reign.
– CAJ News
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