Moise Katumbi, the Congolese opposition politician in exile since 2016, has just landed in Lubumbashi, DR Congo. The supporters of the politician are en masse to welcome him. Dressed in white at her request, they were gathered along the avenues of the chief town of the province of Upper Katanga.
Katumbi left the DRC after facing charges including fraud under former president Joseph Kabila. Leader of the “Together for Change” party, his candidacy for the 2018 presidential election was rejected for binationality, Congolese are not allowed to have multiple nationalities. The vote was finally won by Felix Tshisekedi.
Jason Sterns, director of the Congo Research Group at the Center on International Cooperation, New York University, explains the importance of Moise Katumbi on the Congolese political scene and what his return could entail as recompositions.
“Moise Katumbi is one of the most prominent political figures in DR Congo, a successful businessman who for many years became the governor of the province of Katanga, a very rich mining region in southern Congo. which made him de facto one of the closest allies of former president Joseph Kabila, before separating,” says the researcher.
“Katumbi saw himself as Kabila’s successor, but he did not see it that way, so in 2015, Katumbi, who publicly criticized Joseph Kabila, had a number of relatively disputable arguments with the law, and he went into exile and continued abroad to position himself as one of the leaders of the opposition,” recalls Jason Sterns.
For the Congo specialist, Moses Katumbi and the new president Felix Tshisekedi have a complicated relationship. Close friends and political allies throughout the long electoral period until very recently, he finally supported another opponent Martin Fayulu to represent the opposition to incumbent President Joseph Kabila.
“Tshisekedi is in an alliance with Kabila’s party and thus with many people who helped send Katumbi into exile, his political enemies,” observes the director of the Congo research group. But according to him, it was essential for Moses Katumbi to return to Congo. “He has always used his political connections to grow his business, which is mostly in the Congo, and so if he loses its political importance, he loses his financial and economic interests,” said Jason Sterns.
According to the researcher, the popular boss of the football club TP Mazembe, seeks to position himself. “He is relatively young, I think he is already thinking about his future and what he can do in the next few years,” says the US analyst.