DR Congo drops mercenary investigation

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DR Congolese prosecutors dropped an investigation into allegations opposition leader Moise Katumbi hired mercenaries, a document showed, opening the door for his return home after three years in exile.

Katumbi, former governor of Democratic Republic of Congo’s copper mining Katanga region, fled Congo in May 2016 after accusations he hired mercenaries, including a former US soldier, as part of a plot against former President Kabila’s government.

Katumbi denied the charges, which he said were aimed at preventing him from running to replace Kabila. The original 2016 poll was delayed by two years amid accusations of Kabila clinging to power.

Opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi was declared winner of the December vote and moved to reverse prosecutions of politicians Kabila opponents said were politically motivated.

“Given that the president of the republic has made easing political tensions his priority …, we consider it inopportune to continue the investigation,” Congo’s top military prosecutor, Timothee Mukuntu, wrote in a formal decision abandoning the probe into Katumbi.

The document was dated March 1 but was only made public this week.

Earlier this month, an appeals court overturned Katumbi’s 2016 conviction for real estate fraud, which saw him sentenced in absentia to three years in prison.

His lawyer said at the time his client could soon return to Congo, although Katumbi has yet to comment on the decisions.

Katumbi was blocked from re-entering Congo last year to file candidacy for the presidential election — a race polls showed him leading. He ended up backing opposition leader Martin Fayulu.

Fayulu finished second to Tshisekedi, although multiple sources told Reuters the results were rigged in favour of Tshisekedi, seen by Kabila a lesser threat to the outgoing administration’s interests.

Kabila and Tshisekedi’s camps deny the vote was rigged.