After more than 11 years abroad — a decade of it behind bars — former DR Congo warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba made a triumphant return home on Wednesday in front of tens of thousands supporters and police firing teargas, reflecting the country’s high-voltage political mood.
Bemba, throwing down the gauntlet to his rival President Joseph Kabila, has vowed to contest twice-delayed elections due to take place on December 23.
He landed at Kinshasa from Belgium aboard a private plane after the International Criminal Court (ICC) acquitted him of war-crimes charges in June.
“Bemba is the leader of the Congo, he knows exactly what to do for his Congolese brothers,” said Jean-Bertrand Ngondo, among cheering supporters at the capital’s Ndjili airport.
Crowds of people, many of them chanting anti-Kabila slogans, also gathered along the city’s main highway, prompting police to fire teargas to try to make a path for his open-topped Mercedes, an AFP reporter saw.