GOMA – Moise Katumbi, a Congolese popular opposition politician and former governor of the mineral-rich Katanga region has returned to the country after living in exile for the last three years, following charges against him by the country’s former president Joseph Kabila.
The criminal charges, which Katumbi described as politically motivated included fraud, hiring foreign mercenaries and illegally acquiring second citizenship.
His supporters welcomed him in Lubumbashi, the country’s second largest city and his support base.
Katumbi owns Mazembe, one of Africa’s biggest football clubs.
His return comes after court in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) annulled a three-year prison sentence against him.
“The decision by the Court of Cassation, the DR Congo’s Supreme Court of appeal, means that Katumba is a free man, his lawyer Joseph Mukendi said.
Katumbi, was sentenced in absentia to three years in prison in June 2016, after defecting from former President Joseph Kabila’s ruling party. He soon announced to run for president.
A presidential race before elections in December 2018 showed Katumbi leading other hopeful candidates. However, he was prevented from returning in the country to file his candidature documents.
Government said Katumbi was disqualified to run for president by the courts on the basis of holding dual citizenship. Katumbi, decided to support Martin Fayulu, in the election won by Tshisekedi.
Fayulu who insisted he was cheated came second in the presidential elections that had been delayed for two years.
Fayulu welcomed Katumbi home on Monday, posting on his official Twitter account: “No matter how long the night, the day always ends up rising. Welcome home Moïse Katumbi,” Fayulu said.
Katumbi’s party, Ensemble pour le Changement, had requested President Tshisekedi to allow Katumbi back.
Tshisekedi is credited for releasing political prisoners and has promised to reinvigorate justice and fight corruption in the country.