Security forces in Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday battled supporters of leading opposition presidential candidate Moïse Katumbi in the south-eastern city of Lubumbashi.
The forces were deployed in a bid to halt several simultaneous protests by Katumbi’s supporters from different parts of the city – which is his stronghold and also capital of the Upper-Katanga province of which Katumbi was once governor.
The opposition coalition led by Katumbi, “Ensemble Pour le Changement” or Together for Change had called on their supporters to march today in Lubumbashi, to demand for his return.
I am not going to surrender. How can you refuse a fugitive to go back in his country and to face the law?
The presidential aspirant exiled since 2016 is seeking to return to the country to file his candidature for polls slated for December this year. He has failed to get air clearance as well as entry through the borders.
Katumbi initially applied to the aviation authorities to fly into Lubumbashi but was not granted access. His team tried entering via the common border with Zambia but it was sealed off late last week.
Reports indicate that security forces dispersed demonstrators in central Lubumbashi whiles in some neighbourhoods, people reportedly barricaded the streets and were burning tyres.
According to other reports, hundreds of women took to the streets of Lubumbashi carrying banners demanding the return of Mr Katumbi and camped outside the governor’s office.
The deadline for submission of presidential candidacy papers expires on August 8, 2018. Other candidates to have filed are ex-veep Jean Pierre Bemba and Feliw Tshisekedi, son of late opposition chief.
In comments made during a church service he attended on Sunday, Katumbi said he was not giving up on returning despite government’s efforts to thwart his attempts.
“I am not going to surrender. How can you refuse a fugitive to go back in his country and to face the law?
“They have seen there is no case. It’s just the interference of [President Joseph] Kabila to make me not to run in my country.”