Opposition parties in the Democratic Republic of Congo formed a coalition that will back Moise Katumbi’s candidacy for president in elections scheduled for December.
The announcement marks the start of what’s expected to be a series of declarations by candidates seeking to replace President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the central African nation for 17 years and is barred by the constitution from seeking a third term. Congo, Africa’s biggest copper producer and the world’s largest source of cobalt, has never had a peaceful transfer of power since independence
almost six decades ago.
“You have chosen me to lead us to the coming elections,” Katumbi told a gathering of supporters in Johannesburg, South Africa. “I call for unity among the opposition because we have to work together, hand in hand, to go toward free and transparent elections.”
Congo was supposed to hold elections in 2016, at the end of Kabila’s second term. Opposition leaders have previously accused Kabila of intentionally delaying the vote in order to retain power and change the constitution to enable him to renew his mandate.
“We won’t accept another delay of the elections,” Katumbi said. “I’m calling on the international community to push for this election to happen.”
The new electoral alliance that will support Katumbi will be known as Together for Change. The 53-year-old former Kabila ally and governor of Congo’s copper-and cobalt-rich Katanga province first announced his plans to run for president nearly two years ago. Katumbi has lived in self-imposed exile since May 2016, when he traveled to South Africa for medical treatment. In June that year, he was sentenced in absentia to three years in prison on what he says were politically motivated charges.
Katumbi told reporters his return to Congo is “imminent,” without offering a specific date. “I’ll be going back to my country to put down my candidature
and start campaigning,” he said. Several deadlines announced by Katumbi for his homecoming have already passed.