LUBUMBASHI- Moise Katumbi, the multi-millionaire former governor and prominent Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader and presidential candidate, has been summoned to appear before a prosecutor on Monday upon accusations of hiring foreign mercenaries, according to his lawyer, King Kasongo Mushilanama.
Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba ordered the national prosecutor general on Wednesday to investigate with several retired American soldiers and Katumbi for alleged use of mercenaries, though only few hours later, Katumbi declared himself a candidate for president in an election scheduled for November.
On the case, the U.S. Embassy in the capital Kinshasa stated its position and said that it believed the accusations were untrue. As for Katumbi, in response to the charges, the latter denied the accusations and suspected the government of resorting to smear tactics.
Kasongo also said that Katumbi’s farm outside of Lubumbashi was searched on Saturday by elite Republican Guard troops, who are responsible for guarding the president and securing strategic installations. Government spokesman Lambert Mende said he could not confirm the search, as it is a judicial matter, but added that Congolese law permits the use of the Republican Guard in such situations.
The prosecutor general in Lubumbashi was not immediately available for comment.
Katumbi governed Katanga, Congo’s southeastern copper-mining heartland, from 2007 until last September when he quit Kabila’s ruling party, accusing it of plotting to keep the president in power beyond a two-term limit.
Dozens of people were killed in protests in January 2015 over alleged efforts by Kabila to extend his stay in power. Since then, authorities have arrested dozens of Kabila’s critics on what the United Nations and human rights groups say are trumped-up charges.