The Supreme Court of the Democratic Republic of the Congo upheld a ban on the candidacy of opposition presidential hopeful Jean-Pierre Bemba on Monday, September 3. Bemba, who formerly served as vice president, was previously ruled ineligible by the election commission due to witness tampering, which is equated to corruption. The court also ruled on the eligibility of several other opposition candidates, declaring Adolphe Muzito's campaign invalid but upholding the appeals of Samy Badibanga and Marie-Josee Ifoku. Given Bemba's popularity, protests are possible in the coming days, particularly in Kinshasa. A heightened security presence and localized traffic disruptions are to be expected near any demonstration sites. Clashes between protesters and police cannot be ruled out.
Jean-Pierre Bemba previously served as vice president and lost the 2006 presidential campaign to Joseph Kabila. In 2008, he was arrested and later convicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and witness tampering. Earlier this year, Bemba won an appeal and the majority of his convictions were overturned, though the result of witness tampering appeal remains pending.
Bemba placed third in a July opinion poll, behind the primary opposition candidate Felix Tshisekedi and banned candidate Moïse Katumbi. Incumbent President Joseph Kabila's chosen successor candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary had not been endorsed by Kabila at that point.
The DRC is set to hold presidential elections on December 23, 2018. President Kabila previously announced he would not run for re-election, setting up the December elections to be the first peaceful transition of civilian governments. Kabila has come out in support of his political ally, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who is permanent secretary of the ruling People's Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD).
Individuals in the DRC, particularly Kinshasa, are advised to monitor the situation, adhere to instructions issued by local authorities, and avoid any public demonstrations as a precaution.
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