Congolese opposition leader, Moise Katumbi has said he is still in the race to become the next president of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In an interview with the Reuters news agency in Paris, the former Governor of the mineral-rich Katanga province said he had recovered from an attempt on his life by the police in the DRC, a claim the government has rejected.
“I’m going back to Congo. I’ve got a fight, a peaceful fight for our country to have the first peaceful transition,” he told Reuters.
Katumbi who has been out of the country since May has been accused of recruiting foreign mercenaries, a charge he denies. Last month, he was sentenced in absentia to a 3-year prison term for selling a building he did not own.
But the Congolese opposition figure insists he has done nothing wrong.
“I’m not scared about anything. I didn’t do anything wrong”.
The multi-millionaire who owns the TP Mazembe football club was granted permission to seek medical treatment in South Africa in May for an undisclosed illness.
But in his interview, Katumbi explained that what really happened in May was an attempt by the police to poison him.
“They wanted to kill me. … I was injected, one injection. I don’t know which type of injection. I had a big problem with my health because of this issue and the magistrate court allowed me to go out, to go and do my treatment.”
The DRC is expected to hold elections in November in which the incumbent president, Joseph Kabila who has been in power since 2001 cannot contest. He is barred by the constitutional term limit from standing for re-election having been re-elected already in 2006 and 2011. The opposition says Kabila is trying to extend his stay in office.
It is currently unclear if the elections will go ahead as expected in November since the government has spoken about financial and logistical challenges which might not make it possible for the polls to take place. Katumbi however says the public is ready for the poll.
“The population are ready already for (the) election which is important. Ninety-nine percent are ready for the election and they are waiting for the right time,” he said adding that “you don’t want to make a coup d’etat, you want to follow our constitution and if they don’t call for election, then the people of Congo are going to say ‘Mr. President, you didn’t respect what you are supposed to respect. It’s time to go.‘”
He indicated that the opposition will continue its “peaceful demonstrations” as it doesn’t “want any blood to flow”.
But protests by Katumbi’s supporters especially in May when he had to face the prosecutor general on allegations of recruiting foreign mercenaries always ended violently with police firing tear gas to disperse the supporters.
Katumbi has meanwhile called on the global powers to impose more sanctions on Congolese officials to force the government to hold elections.
“Opposition doesn’t have guns in our country, that’s why we are calling on the international community to do more sanctions, the EU also, to some people who are ready to kill the Congolese people” he said.
“Our struggle is not to fight with guns, our struggle is a peaceful struggle to have a new government on 19th December 2016” Katumbi added.
Tension in the DRC is high and there are fears the political instability there could degenerate.
The United Nations and other rights groups say the Congolese government has arrested dozens of its critics on trumped-up charges.