Bemba excluded from DR Congo presidential candidate list


The election commission of Democratic Republic of Congo excluded opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba and three former prime ministers from the approved candidates list for December’s presidential election.

Bemba, a former warlord who returned to Kinshasa to submit his candidacy for president after a decade in prison in The Hague for war crimes, was seen as a frontrunner in the race to succeed incumbent Joseph Kabila.

The commission said a separate International Criminal Court conviction for witness tampering was the reason for Bemba’s exclusion from the list.

Bemba was acquitted on appeal at the ICC of war crimes and crimes against humanity for murder, rape and pillage committed by fighters he sent to Central African Republic in 2002 but his witness tampering conviction stands.

Opposition parties condemned the decision, which can be appealed before the final list is published in September.
“Once again the current regime is showing its determination to suppress the electoral process,” they said in a joint statement before the commission published the list.

Last month, Bemba placed third in a rare public opinion poll on the likely outcome of the election, winning 17% support.

He is popular in western Congo, including Kinshasa and his exclusion could trigger violent reaction from his supporters. Street battles between militiamen loyal to Bemba and state forces broke out in Kinshasa after he lost the 2006 election to Kabila.

After years of speculation over his intentions, Kabila consented in August to obey the two-term limit imposed by the Central African country’s constitution by not entering his name for the poll set for December 23.

As a parting shot, he picked a former interior minister, now under EU sanctions, to stand instead.

His choice of a diehard loyalist suggested the president, who came to power after his father’s assassination in 2001, intends to remain involved in national politics. He will be eligible to run again in 2023.

Former prime ministers Adolphe Muzito, Antoine Gizenga and Samy Badibanga were among six candidates excluded from the commission’s list.