DR Congo opposition leader Katumbi to return from exile

Katumbi, 54, a wealthy businessman of mixed Greek and Congolese origin, served as the elected governor of Katanga in southeastern DR Congo (AFP Photo/JOHN THYS)

Kinshasa (AFP) - DR Congo opposition leader Moise Katumbi said Monday he will return to his country on May 20 from three years of self-imposed exile to fight a bid to change the nation's constitution.

"I am returning on May 20 to Lubumbashi to be with my people, to console families that have been mistreated. I was abroad while they were in living hell," the former governor of the southeastern Katanga province told RFI and France 24 media in an interview.

"I am going back to wake up the population and keep the constitution from being changed" by lawmakers loyal to former president Joseph Kabila who hold a large majority in the country's two legislative houses.

In April, a court in the Democratic Republic of Congo scrapped a three-year jail term against Katumbi for alleged property fraud, opening the way for him to return from Belgium.

He pledged to remain in opposition and not join the new government of President Felix Tshisekedi, who succeeded Kabila in January in the country's first peaceful political transition since independence from Belgium in 1960.

Even though Katumbi has criticized Tshisekedi's victory as rigged, he said he plans to move on in order to preserve "national cohesion".

Katumbi left DR Congo on May 20, 2016 for treatment abroad, and a court in the provincial capital Lubumbashi sentenced him to three years in prison a month later.