Party names ex-warlord Bemba candidate for DR Congo presidential poll

By Agency Report

The former vice president of DR Congo Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was acquitted last month of war crimes, was on Friday named by his party as a candidate in presidential polls planned for December.

“We unanimously decided to renew Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo as national president of the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo for a five-year term and to name him as our candidate for the presidential election of December 23, 2018,” said the party’s Jean Jacques Mamba.

Earlier this week the DRC said Bemba could apply for a diplomatic passport to return home after he was acquitted of war crimes in The Hague.

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The DRC is in the grip of a crisis over the future of President Joseph Kabila, who has ruled the country since 2001 and has remained in office, despite a two-term constitutional limit that expired in December 2016.

He has remained in power under a constitutional clause that enables a president to stay in office until his or her successor is elected.

Bemba’s party named him as their candidate at a congress in Kinshasa.

On June 8, judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC), overturned a 2016 conviction against Bemba for five counts of war crimes committed by his militia in the Central African Republic in 2002-2003.

They said he could not be held criminally liable for atrocities they committed, which included murder, rape and looting, as he was unable to influence their conduct.

He had been given an 18-year term, the longest ever to be handed down by the court.

Bemba was earlier this week known to be in Belgium having gained an interim release from the court.

The ICC is due to issue a ruling in a separate case in which he was sentenced to a one-year in jail and fined 300,000 euros ($350,000) in 2017 for bribing witnesses during his main war crimes trial.

However, he has already spent a decade behind bars, and legal experts expect him to be released definitively if this time is taken into account.

It remains unclear whether he faces any threat of prosecution if he sets foot on DRC soil, after authorities issued a warrant in 2007 against him over the violence and for alleged arson at the Supreme Court.

(AFP)

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