On the morning of his declaration, Kabila’s justice minister launched an inquiry into allegations Katumbi was using mercenaries to recruit Congolese youths into a militia. Katumbi has rejected such claims as defamatory and ‘grotesque’.

The following day (May 5), security forces surrounded Katumbi’s home and Olivier Kamitatu, a former minister and prominent supporter of Katumbi, reportedly claims an arrest warrant has been issued. Katumbi’s decision has ensured that his life will become very difficult as the Kabila regime dials up its clampdown on its opponents.

Last, there is the question of whether there will even be an election for Katumbi to contest. Elsewhere it might sound silly but in the DRC it is anything but. The Congolese constitution dictates that Kabila must stand down at the end of his second term and hold an election before the end of November 2016. The incumbent, however, has shown no intention of relinquishing power. He is thought to be deliberately delaying the vote until he can introduce a new constitution which permits him to renew his mandate similar to the changes in neighboring Rwanda—but perhaps with less of a popular mandate. Politicians and diplomats privately admit polls in 2016 are an impossibility and the Kabila government appears to favour a lag of several years.

Katumbi has broken cover and faces a long stretch out in the open. More time to build support? Sure. More time avoiding Kabila’s crosshairs? Without doubt.

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