Congo's Kabila plans arrest of rival, Katumbi, on fake charges -- U.S.

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Moise Katumbi; undeclared, but feared by Kabila

The U.S. intelligence community believes that Congo's Joseph Kabila soon plans to arrest his chief potential presidential challenger Moise Katumbi, the popular businessman and former governor of mineral-rich Katanga, The Black Star News has learned.

The U.S believes Kabila plans to use South African and Zimbabwean mercenaries, working with elements of Congo's Republican Guard, to intentionally destabilize Katanga by fomenting violence in the region.

The Congolese government would then arrest Katumbi under the pretext that it is stamping down a revolt by the former governor.

A Congolese general, Kampeta and a colonel, Ilunga, are to spearhead the effort under the plan, according to the intelligence community.

The plan is to launch violent clashes, including in Lubumbashi, the capital of Katanga by working with local politicians who want to curry favor with Kabila.

The Kabila government plans to charge Katumbi with war crimes in connection with the violence to be instigated by regime agents, and with financial-related crimes including tax evasion, according to people familiar with the U.S. intelligence.

Katumbi last year had a falling out with Kabila and accused him of planning to extend his regime when his presidential term expires in December this year.

Katumbi hasn't declared that he'll be a candidate if there are elections; a coalition of opposition parties has invited him to be its candidate.

Two years ago Secretary of State John Kerry during a visit to Congo urged Kabila to abide by the constitution's presidential term limits. Kabila succeeded his father Laurent Kabila as president after he was assassinated in 2001. He subsequently was elected in disputing votes and is to complete a second term this year.

Kabila may feel emboldened by the regional democracy-deficit: Rwanda's Paul Kagame has ignored Washington's plea that he respect his country's constitution and not run for a third term; Burundi's Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a third term; and Uganda's Yoweri Museveni, in power for 30 years has refused to step down after February elections widely condemned by the EU and Commonwealth observer teams as having been blatantly rigged.

Meanwhile, separately, Senator John McCain has written a sharply-worded letter to Congo's ambassador to the U.S. to express "deep concern at the increasingly repressive political climate and the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo.."

In the letter, dated April 15 McCain accuses Kabila over the past two years of "maneuvering to avoid national elections and consolidate power by undermining the democratic process and closing political space."

He recalled the protests against Kabila last year "during which dozens of people were killed by government forces."

He also accused the regime of using government security and intelligence agents to "crack down" on peaceful activists and political leaders who oppose Kabila's bid to extend his term beyond the constitutionally barred two-term limits.

Congolese officials couldn't be reached this evening for comment.

Katumbi and his associates also couldn't be reached.

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