The Court of Cassation, the Supreme Court of Appeal, has overturned a sentence for alleged property fraud, "opening the way for his return," Katumbi's attorney Joseph Mukendi said.
One of the Democratic Republic of Congo's most formidable and wealthiest politicians, Moise Katumbi, 54, left the country in 2016 after falling out with his ally the then president, Joseph Kabila. Kabila stood down in January after 18 years in power having overstayed by two years thus exceeding his constitutional maximum term in office.
He handed on to opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi in the country's first peaceful political transition since independence from Belgium in 1960.
Katumbi, the son to a Greek businessman father and a Congolese mother, tried to return in August 2018 to file his bid for the December presidential elections but he was prevented at the Zambian border from crossing into the DRC. The Electoral rules require candidates to be physically in DR Congo to submit their election application.
Katumbi and fellow opposition juggernaut Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was also barred from running, backed opposition candidate Martin Fayulu. Fayulu came in a close second to Tshisekedi, according to results that Fayulu quickly dismissed as flawed and not credible.
Katumbi has his political base in the mining province of Katanga, in the southeast of the country, where he was previously a governor. In June 2016, a court in Katanga's provincial capital, Lubumbashi, handed him a three-year jail term in absentia for alleged property fraud, with the instruction that he be arrested immediately if he set foot in the country.
Katumbi was also accused of hiring several foreign mercenaries to act as his private guards. He has denied both charges. In the months before the presidential elections, the authorities also accused him of "usurping" Congolese nationality. They said that by acquiring an Italian passport, he had forfeited his right to Congolese citizenship given the fact that dual citizenship is illegal under DR Congo law.
Many of his supporters who have endured untold suffering under Kabila's administration were appalled by the sentence against Katumbi arguing that his former ally Kabila was behind the Opposition Leader's woes. Kabila was once Katumbi's ally up until they fell out in 2015 allegedly over Kabila's handling of corruption in the country. Katumbi's supporters have always argued that the charges against Katumbi are trumped-up charges aimed at locking him out of the presidential race and frustrating his political ambitions.
Header Image Credit: John Thys