Congo's Katumbi Abandons Plan to Fly Home as He Faces Arrest

(Bloomberg) -- Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader Moise Katumbi abandoned plans to fly back to the country and will instead attempt to enter by land after the government said a warrant for his arrest had been issued.

Katumbi, 53, is trying to return to the central African nation after two years in exile to register as a candidate in presidential elections scheduled for Dec. 23. He was convicted in absentia in 2016 of illegally selling a property and sentenced to three years in prison. There are several legal inquiries still open, including allegations that Katumbi hired mercenaries. He denies any wrongdoing and his lawyers say the charges are politically motivated.

“As soon as he arrives in Congolese territory, the sentence will be executed,” Communications Minister Lambert Mende said by phone from the capital, Kinshasa, the capital.

Katumbi had planned to fly to the city of Lubumbashi in southeastern Congo earlier on Friday. No request was made for his aircraft to land, but if there had been one, the government would have authorized it “because the justice system needs him,” Mende said. Katumbi’s coalition, Together for Change, posted what it said was a request for permission to land on its Twitter account on July 30.

Katumbi flew to Ndola in northern Zambia on Friday and will attempt to cross the land border, Delly Sesanga, secretary-general of Together for Change, Katumbi’s political platform, said by phone from Lubumbashi.

Christian Mwando, deputy secretary-general of Together for Change, was part of a convoy heading to the border at Kasumbalesa that was blocked by security forces.

“We were heading for Kasumbalesa, but we have been blocked,” he said. “We are negotiating.”

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