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Huge crowd in Kinshasa for Bemba return, police using teargas

Published: 01st August 2018 06:34 PM  |   Last Updated: 01st August 2018 06:34 PM   |  A+A-

Bemba, 55, arrived in Kinshasa airport earlier after being acquitted of a war-crimes conviction in June by the International Criminal Court. (Photo | AP)

By AFP

KINSHASA: Police fired teargas in Kinshasa on Wednesday as tens of thousands of people turned out to welcome former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba on his return to DR Congo, an AFP reporter saw.

The crowd is the largest politically-related gathering in two years in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose president, Joseph Kabila, has cracked down on protests.

Bemba, 55, arrived in Kinshasa airport earlier after being acquitted of a war-crimes conviction in June by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Congo's former Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba returned to the country on Wednesday to register as a presidential candidate. (Photo | AP)

He rode in an open-topped Mercedes on the highway from the airport to the headquarters of his party, the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC), saluting the crowd.

Police fired around 10 rounds of teargas on Lumumba Boulevard, one of the city's main roads, to try to disperse the throng and enable his convoy to speed up.

Bemba has vowed to contest the country's December 23 elections, saying that he intends to complete the formalities on Thursday.

Kabila, Bemba's rival, has so far not declared whether he will seek a new term or step down. He was scheduled to stand down at the end of 2016 after his second elected term, technically the last permitted under the constitution.

But he has stayed in office, invoking a constitutional clause enabling him to stay in power until a successor is elected.

Dozens of people have been killed by the security forces in protests demanding that he quit.

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