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TOP PRIORITY: Katumbi Sets Eyes On Reviving Army As Strategy To End War In Eastern Congo

  • Katumbi says he is confident of winning free-and-fair election
  • Former provincial governor sees need for professional army

Moise Katumbi, who is seen as a serious contender in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s upcoming presidential elections, said he’s confident of winning a clean contest outright and that he’ll prioritize building a professional army and maintaining peace and security if he does.

The former governor of the copper- and cobalt-rich Katanga province and one of Congo’s wealthiest businessmen, Katumbi has shaken up the country’s politics since he returned from exile in 2019 to a welcome from tens of thousands of supporters. In a Jan. 16 interview, he excoriated President Felix Tshisekedi for failing to quell insecurity along Congo’s eastern border.

“It’s not like you are running a bottle store when you run a country. You have to have a program” to restore peace, which is key to attracting investment and tackling the nation’s economic and social woes, he said. “I can see my people are dying every day, every day, in the east of Congo.”

The M23 rebel group, which Tshisekedi and some US officials say is backed by neighboring Rwanda, has displaced more than 390,000 people since March last year. East African nations have deployed a regional force to restore stability, but Katumbi said it will increase distrust in a region that’s endured decades of conflict and incursions by forces from neighboring countries.

Tshisekedi “came to power saying one of his priorities was to bring stability to the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Richard Moncrieff, project director for the Great Lakes region at the International Crisis Group. “He has very clearly failed to do so, it’s his major weakness going into this election.”

Katumbi first announced plans to run for president in a 2018 vote following a fallout with Congo’s then-leader Joseph Kabila, but left the country after running into a series of legal problems and then backed opposition leader Martin Fayulu from exile. Tshisekedi, who headed Congo’s largest opposition party before he came to power, was declared the winner but leaked results showed Fayulu garnered the most votes.

Katumbi, who heads the Together for the Republic party, said he favors his chances over those of Fayulu — who depended on his support in the previous contest. Fayulu has also announced plans to run in elections slated for December.

“I want to continue on my way to rebuild my party because I know if there is transparency, if there is a fair, free and inclusive election, I’ll win,” Katumbi said. “I don’t want to have a coalition with anyone.”

Credit: Bloomberg

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