Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) opposition leader Moise Katumbi will appear before a prosecutor Monday to answer questions regarding allegations he recruited and hired foreign mercenaries, Katumbi's lawyer said.
The government of President Joseph Kabila said it has “documented proof” that several former American soldiers are currently working for Katumbi as bodyguards in Katanga province.
Katumbi, a wealthy businessman and head of the prestigious Tout-Puissant Mazembe soccer club, has denied the accusations.
Last week, Katumbi accepted the petition of a coalition of seven opposition parties to challenge Kabila in this year’s election.
The government accusations against Katumbi came the same day he accepted the petition.
Gama Mumba, one of Katumbi's lawyers, said many Congolese believe the government allegations are politically motivated.
“Mr. Katumbi received the paper from the prosecutor calling him to come tomorrow (Monday) to the office of the prosecutor, but on the paper the prosecutor sent, they don’t mention the reason why they are calling him to go to the office of the prosecutor," Mumba said.
"[Monday morning] we are going to be informed on the right reason why the prosecutor called Mr. Katumbi,” he said.
Congo Information Minister Lambert Mende told VOA last week the government had evidence of American mercenaries being recruited.
“People were arrested in Lubumbashi recently while trying to disturb the security in the street with Mr. Katumbi on the 21st of April and when they made the verification of their identity, we saw among them an American citizen identifying himself as an agriculture expert," Mende said.
"But following the investigation that was made by our security personnel, it seemed that he was a former Marine who is working as a mercenary,” he added.
Mumba said Katumbi has heard or read the comments by Mende and Congolese Justice Minister Alexis Thambwe Mwamba accusing Katumbi through the media of recruiting foreign mercenaries. But now, he said, Katumbi will hear what the prosecutor will say.
“The government can say recruitment of mercenaries, but on the level of the prosecutor they can change. So I can’t confirm that we are going to face the same reason the minister for justice and the minister of information gave us,” Mumba said.
Mumba said Katumbi has asked the U.N. mission in the DRC for protection because he felt his life was in danger.
“The political [party] to which he belongs sent a letter to the United Nations locally to ask for the protection because when he resigned from the government, from the position of the governor of Katanga, the government took all the soldiers and all the policemen. So now he’s living without protection from the government,” Mumba said.
Mumba said it’s possible the authorities could arrest Katumbi Monday or they could put him under house arrest.
Katumbi and the opposition are hopeful, Mumba said, that President Kabila will respect the constitution, which calls for fresh elections 90 days before the end of the mandate of the president in power.