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Congolese opposition leader denies hiring mercenaries for protection


Beni   –   A Congolese opposition presidential candidate denied hiring mercenaries as bodyguards as he appeared before a court in the country’s South-East on Monday, his lawyer Georges Kapiamba said.

Moise Katumbi had been summoned for a court hearing after announcing last Wednesday that he would be the candidate of several opposition parties in Congo’s upcoming elections in November.

On the day of his announcement, the government said the judiciary would investigate allegations that Katumbi had illegally hired South African and U.S. mercenaries to ensure his security.

Police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of Katumbi supporters who had gathered in front of the court building in Lumumbashi, according to journalists at the scene.

Kapiamba said Katumbi would appear in court again on Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch said that the accusations against the opposition candidate appeared to be politically motivated.

President Joseph Kabila has not said whether he will be a candidate in the elections – a move that would violate the constitutional two-term limit.

The opposition is concerned that Kabila could try to postpone the elections to extend his rule.

There is also concern that Congo could follow the example of Rwanda and Congo-Brazzaville, where the constitution was changed to allow their leaders to serve longer.

In Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term sparked a wave of political violence.

Dozens of Congolese opposition members have been arrested since late April, according to Human Rights Watch. (dpa/NAN)

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