Congolese opposition leader Moise Katumbi is on his way to seek medical treatment in South Africa after authorities in Kinshasa granted him permission to travel.
The former governor of Katanga has been charged with hiring mercenaries as part of an alleged plot against incumbent president Joseph Kabila.
The decision by authorities to allow him seek treatment abroad comes a day after the government announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Katumbi’s arrest.
BREAKING: Congo opposition leader Katumbi flying to South Africa for medical treatment after arrest warrant issued— The Associated Press (@AP) May 20, 2016
The development has been described by some Congolese as a ploy by the government to force the opposition leader into exile thus making it impossible for him to contest the elections.
Political analyst Adolphe Voto said he found it quite curious that whenever a pubic figure publicly opposed the government, offences were raised against him.
“They say his case should continue, but then they say he can seek treatment wherever he wants, they want to push him into exile. They want to sully his record so he will no longer be a candidate! But if he is not a candidate, there will be no elections in this country because every time someone has ambitions, he has problems with the police, he has problems with the government, he has problems with the law. What type of democracy is this?” Voto questioned.
Katumbi who was summoned to appear before a prosecutor in Lubumbashi was teargassed with his supporters leading to him being hospitalized last week.
His supporters have described the charge against him as a targeted move to derail his campaign.
A Kinshasa resident, Avelin Mboma, decried the treatment meted out to Katumbi saying he suspects there was higher authority behind it.
“Katumbi does not deserve all that is happening to him. He does not deserve it,” Mboma said.
Political tension is high in the Democratic Republic of Congo where critics have accused president Kabila of trying to stay in power beyond his mandated term.
The government has said it is unlikely to be able to organise the election expected in November in due time due to budgetary and logistical constraints.
The highest court in the DRC has also ruled that Kabila could stay in power beyond the end of his term if elections do not take place.