Bemba leaves ICC after 10 years in prison, arrives home for presidential bid


Bemba leaves ICC after 10 years in prison, arrives home for presidential bid
Jean-Pierre Bemba

In Summary

  • Bemba’s return is expected to energise opposition to President Joseph Kabila.
  • Kabila has been in power since his father’s assassination in 2001.
  • He is barred by Constitutional term limits from standing for a new term in December’s election but has refused to commit publicly to not contesting the election.

DRC opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba has arrived in Kinshasa to submit his candidacy for president after a decade in prison at the International Criminal Court.

Thousands of supporters in T-shirts, hats and scarves bearing Bemba’s face were gathered inside and around N’djili Airport, where his private airplane touched down around 9:30 a.m.

“The Congolese people have waited for this moment for a long time,” said Toussaint Bodongo, one of about 300 members of Bemba’s MLC party who were waiting for him.

Police had to fire teargas to disperse crowds and open the road as Bemba’s motorcade was not moving, Aljazeera’s Catherine Wambua-Soy said on Twitter.

“People now running alongside it but trying to avoid going to the middle of the road,” she added.

Bemba’s war crimes conviction at the International Criminal Court (ICC) was quashed on appeal in May.

He had tweeted a photo of himself boarding his private jet early at The Hague on Wednesday.

His return is expected to energise opposition to President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since his father’s assassination in 2001.

Kabila is barred by Constitutional term limits from standing for a new term in December’s election but has refused to commit publicly to not contesting the election.

This would pave the way for Congo’s first democratic transition.

The country is in suspense over whether Kabila will choose someone else to represent his ruling coalition or try to run again and risk a violent backlash.

Report by Reuters 

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