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Congo’s opposition leader accuses govt of poisoning him

Congo’s leading opposition candidate for president said Monday he was poisoned as part of a government plot to kill him, a dramatic claim almost certain to escalate tensions even further over upcoming elections in one of Africa’s largest countries.

In an interview with reporters, Moise Katumbi said he was roughed up by police in May who injected him with an unknown substance outside a courthouse in the city of Lubumbashi.

"Their plan was to kill me," Katumbi said, "because they are scared about my popularity."

Katumbi said the directions came from the highest levels of Congo’s government, but he did not provide details about whom he specifically believes was responsible.

Katumbi and other critics of President Joseph Kabila have expressed concern that the election set for November will be delayed so that Kabila will stay in power longer. Kabila is supposed to leave office in December, but he has not publicly declared his intentions.

Congo’s communications minister, Lambert Mende, was unavailable to comment on Monday, but he had previously dismissed allegations Katumbi had been harmed by the police. He noted that Katumbi was allowed to leave Congo for medical treatment elsewhere.

"If the objective was to kill him as he claims, why let him go and vilify us in the press?" Mende said in a recent interview with a radio station.

Since Congo won independence from Belgium in 1960, there has never been a peaceful, democratic transition of power in the country. Kabila has been in office since 2001, taking over less than two weeks after his father, President Laurent Kabila, was shot by a bodyguard in the presidential palace. He was elected president in 2006 and again in 2011. Kabila is barred by Congo’s constitution from a third term.


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