DRC: Bishops Urge State to allow Exiled Opposition Leader into the Country

KINSHASA, AUGUST 7, 2018 (CISA)- The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Catholic Bishops Conference (CENCO) has blamed the government for interfering with the entry of Moise Katumbi, the exiled opposition leader who aims at contesting for presidency.

“The Congolese Bishops’ Conference strongly urges the Congolese authorities to reconsider their decision by letting Moise Katumbi enter the country and apply as any other candidate,” reads a communiqué signed by CENCO President  Bishop Marcel Utembi Tapa alongside his Vice President Pridolin Ambongo Besungu issued on Monday August 6.

The communiqué comes after the opposition leader was for the second time denied entry into DRC through the border between Zambia and Katanga on Friday August 3. This is after he was barred from landing his private jet at Kinshasa Airport on his attempt.

Katumbi has been in exile in Belgium since 2016 after falling out with President Joseph Kabila. He is seeking to return to the country to contest for presidency in the polls scheduled for December this year.

Bishops in their statement argue out that it was the responsibility of the authorities to allow him back into the country and for the electoral body to clear him to run for the upcoming polls without interferences from the government.

“Such segregationist treatment is not justified and can unnecessarily lead to unfortunate consequences that must be avoided. Such a refusal in many ways resembles a denial of identity, which no human society can tolerate,” the communiqué added.

He faces a high risk of being locked out from the presidential race upon expiry of the August 8 deadline for submission of presidential candidacy papers.

Some of the aspirants who have filed their papers are former vice president Jean Pierre Bemba and Felix Tshisekedi, son of late opposition chief.

Security forces on Monday battled pro-Katumbi supporters in the south-eastern city of Lubumbashi. The forces were deployed in a bid to prevent several simultaneous protests from different parts of the city – which is his stronghold and also capital of the Upper-Katanga province of which Katumbi was once governor.