Security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo surrounded the home of Moise Katumbi, a day after he declared his candidacy in presidential elections scheduled for November.
The government forces took up positions outside the 51-year-old politician’s house in Lubumbashi in southeastern Congo, Kyungu wa Kumwanza, a leader of the so-called G7 political group, said by phone from the residence.
“My house was surrounded this morning police,” Katumbi said in a statement on his Twitter account. “This is Kabila’s answer to my candidacy for president. Whatever happens, I stand by my application and remain firm in my peaceful struggle for the rule of law.”
Justice Minister Alexis Tambwe on Wednesday ordered the general prosecutor to open an investigation into Katumbi’s alleged use of mercenaries. “The government has identified unauthorized foreign security officials working in Katumbi’s security detail,” Amuri Ntambwe Kahenga, a spokesman for the ministry, said by phone from the capital, Kinshasa.
Calls to Katumbi’s phone didn’t connect when Bloomberg called him seeking comment.
Olivier Kamitatu, another member of the G7, said a warrant had been issued for Katumbi’s arrest. The Justice Ministry couldn’t confirm whether a warrant had been issued, and a spokesman said any decision to make an arrest would have to come from the general prosecutor’s office. The general prosecutor wasn’t available when Bloomberg called his office seeking comment.
The announcement Wednesday of Katumbi’s candidacy ended months of speculation since the former governor of the copper-rich Katanga province resigned from the ruling party in September. Congo is Africa’s biggest copper producer and the world’s largest source of cobalt.
Katumbi is the owner of TP Mazembe, one of Africa’s most successful football clubs, and a high-profile political figure in Congo. Elections are slated for November, but delays to a voter registration process and a political dialogue called for by President Joseph Kabila could postpone the poll. Opposition parties say Kabila is intentionally blocking election preparations to hold on to power.
At least three opposition coalitions have thrown their support behind Katumbi, who is trying to unite other opposition parties to present him as a single candidate and improve his chances of beating Kabila. The country has never had a peaceful transition of power.
The government amended the constitution in 2011 to abolish second-round voting for presidential elections, a move that analysts say would favor the incumbent party by splitting the opposition vote. Kabila, in power since 2001, won elections in 2006 and 2011. He is barred from running again by the constitution, and he has yet to publicly confirm he will step down.