Moise Katumbi, a key opposition leader in the Democratic Republic of Congo, announced on Wednesday he would run in November’s presidential election when incumbent Joseph Kabila is expected to step down in accordance with the constitution.
There have been speculations that the wealthy owner of one of Africa’s top football clubs, TP Mazembe, could run for president of DR Congo.
In March Mr Katumbi told BBC’s Maud Jullien that people had hope in him, and he knew their expectations.
"The problem is we need to sit around a table as big guys to have at least one [opposition] candidate," Moise Katumbi said.
Now, the speculations have been confirmed. Katumbi will be seeking the top position after he got a nod from three opposition coalitions in recent weeks.
"I accept with humility this heavy responsibility," Katumbi said in a statement on his official Twitter account, referring to his nomination for the presidency by the three opposition parties.
The citizenry is worried that president Kabila might delay the presidential vote to remain in the office.
The chaotic reception of such news was witnessed in January 2015 when 40 people were killed in protests over allegations that Kabila wanted to delay the said elections.
Still, Kabila’s opponents claim that he is trying to cling to power beyond his mandate and Katumbi’s announcement could heighten political tension as the president is yet to declare his plans.
Possible delay in updating voter rolls will take 16 months
There are glaring signs that the elections might be delayed. According to the election commission, updating voter rolls might take up to 16 months.
The multimillionaire’s Wednesday declaration is arguably an expression that he is not ready to bow to political pressure. In the recent weeks, tensions have risen between Katumbi’s camp and the government. Last month, police used tear gas to disperse a rally led by Katumbi in the country’s second-largest city, Lubumbashi and arrested four of his bodyguards.
Katumbi is a former governor of Katanga from 2007 until last September when he quit Kabila’s party condemning it of plotting to extend the presidents’ rule which begun in 2001.
The government is accusing Katumbi of recruiting mercenaries. On Wednesday, Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe ordered a probe into Katumbi's deals claiming that the government "has proof of ... Katumbi's involvement in the recruitment of mercenaries, including several retired American soldiers," he said.
On his part, Katumbi replied to the accusation on his Twitter saying: "The low blows of the government do not hinder my peaceful combat. I will be the candidate of the rule of law."
President Kabila has been accused of corrupt deals. E-mails from the State Department obtained by ABC News revealed that the Congo leader offered Bill Clinton $650,000 for a speech and two photos.
Katumbi said in a statement that he is planning to begin a national tour to develop a common opposition platform for the nation to tackle Kabila.
It is hoped that the November election will be followed by peaceful transition for once. The country has never undergone a peaceful transition of power since independence. Congo has been plagued by war and instability.
Image credit: Reuters