Jean-Pierre Bemba, former Vice President of the Democratic republic of the Congo, returned to the capitol, Kinshasa, after a decade of exile.
A former International Criminal Court conviction of war crimes and crimes against humanity had sentenced him to 18 years in prison, but Bemba’s conviction was overturned in June of this year, two years after his initial ICC conviction in 2016, and 10 years after his initial 2008 arrest in Brussels.
Mobs of unruly supporters sporting clothing baring his name and face welcomed Bemba on the tarmac as he stepped off one of his private jets. The crowd was so rambunctious that Bemba’s police escort had to launch tear gas at throngs of his supporters to clear a path for his motorcade.
Bemba aims to ride this resurgence in popularity, particularly in the northern and western regions of the country, to the presidency come December.
The upcoming presidential election in DR Congo has experienced a series of setbacks and delays. Originally, the elections were planned for November 2016, but they have still yet to happen due to an agreement reached between the ruling party and the minority party factions.
It is possible the election could experience further delays because, while Bemba intends to run, the DR Government, headed by longtime political rival Joseph Kabila, claims corruption charges of tampering with witnesses makes Bemba ineligible for candidacy.
Bemba is in the process of appealing that corruption charge, and the result of this appeal could lead to further destabilization of an already shaky government, which could bring the country back to the early 2000s when multiple warlords, including the Mobutu Sese Seko (former DR Congo dictator) backed Movement for the Liberation of Congo, led by Bemba, fought for influence and power.