Bemba return worry for DR Congo's Tshisekedi

Monday June 03 2019

Former vice-president of Democratic Republic of Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba during a press conference in Brussels on September 4, 2018. He announced on Twitter on Monday he will return to DRC on June 23, complicating an already testy reign for President Felix Tshisekedi. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP.


DR Congo former vice president Jean Pierre Bemba announced Monday that he will return home on June 23 further complicating President Felix Tshisekedi's rule.

Bemba, who was acquitted by the International Criminal Court last year after spending 11 years in custody, made the surprise announcement on Twitter.

"It is with joy and enthusiasm that I announce my return to Kinshasa, DRC, on Sunday June 23 2019 at 10am," he wrote.

"I look forward to meeting you so that together we can strengthen the unity of vision and action for a prosperous Congo."

The return of Bemba to Congo, completes the Lamuka platform of the so called "six bosses" - all powerful business and political individuals.

They are Martin Fayulu, Moïse Katumbi, Jean-Pierre Bemba, former prime minister Adolphe Muzito, rebel leader Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi and Freddy Matungulu.


With all these men in the country Congo, President Tshisekedi has a tricky regional balancing act in order to hold on to power with his predecessor Joseph Kabila calling the shots in the legislature and cabinet.

Katumbi will be the strongman in Katanga to the south, while Nyamwisi maintains hold on both the Lake Kivu region with Bemba covers Kisangani to the north. Fayulu is very popular in the central and Kinshasa regions.

"My analysis is that trouble will continue if Felix is not alert," said an observer in Kinshasa.

For Nelleke van de Walle, Deputy Project Director, Central Africa at the International Crisis Group, Bemba's return has similarities to Katumbi's who landed to huge procession in his home region on May 20.

"Bemba's return may further strain the Lamuka coalition, although the secretary general of his MLC party, Eve Bazaiba, has been openly supporting Fayulu. Like Katumbi, Bemba likely continues to have presidential ambitions," said de Walle.

Bemba's party MLC has indicated that he will hold a press conference on arrival. It is understood he plans to build a mausoleum in honour of his father Bemba Saolona, who died in 2009.

In this, he will essentially be paying homage to his father like President Tshisekedi has done with the return and burial of his father's body last Saturday. 

Bemba, formerly vice-president was arrested in Belgium on a war crimes warrant from the ICC in relation to the ravaging war the rocked Congo and neighbouring Central African Republic.

In May last year, the court cleared him, and he has been on global tour trying to recover his assets confiscated by the ICC.

He has also filed a suit with the same court seeking damages of $77.7m.