Jean-Pierre Bemba, 55, has succeeded to apply as a presidential candidate for the long-delayed elections to be held on 23 December 2018 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). On Thursday 02 August 2018, he stated that he had a voter’s card and had succeeded to file his completed application at the electoral commission (CENI) and that it was up to the body “to handle all applications”.
The leader of the opposition, Moise Katumbi, who fell out with incumbent Joseph Kabila in 2016 and has been living in exile in Belgium since then has, on his part, been denied entry into his native Lumbumbashi. The deadline for applications is 08 August 2018.
Until the release of Bemba from the ICC on 8 June 2018 the opposition could hardly boast of a champion even though Katumbi had eventually become an opposition big weight following the death of Étienne Tshisekedi in February 2017.
Upon his return to Kinshasa on 01 August 2018, Bemba was received with cheers. His party, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC) named him their candidate for the December polls on 29 June 2018. Bemba “consequently sought to get the mandate as a joint opposition candidate.”
At present, it is yet unclear whether incumbent Kabila will respect constitutional term limits and stay clear of the race. Were Kabila to stand for the elections, Bemba might effectively be the major challenger, depending on whether the CENI will accept his application.
If Kabila doesn’t stand for the elections, Bemba, a former warlord whose militia carried out severe crimes against humanity in the Central African Republic (CAR), might likely win the elections.