Defiant Bemba plans to return home

Democratic Republic of Congo opposition leader talks exclusively to Al Jazeera.

    Bemba is thought to be under investigation by the
    International Criminal Court, something he denies 
    The Democratic Republic of Congo's opposition leader has told Al Jazeera that he intends to return to his country before parliament's next legislative session begins in September.

    In an interview broadcast on Al Jazeera on Friday, Jean-Pierre Bemba, who last year lost out in presidential elections to Jospeh Kabila, dismissed allegations of war crimes and said he feared for his life but planned to return home.

    "They [the government] tried to kill me three times, you know it. August, September and now March," he said. "They sent tanks to my house [in Kinshasa]."

    Bemba, who is currently in Portugal where he is seeking medical treatment for a leg fracture, could face charges of treason if he returns home.

    Video link

    Watch Nick Clark's interview with Jean-Pierre Bemba

    His opponents have said they will hold him responsible for violence that flared up in Kinshasa the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, earlier in the year.

    In March, hundreds of civilians were killed when fighting broke out between his forces and government troops.

    Kabila had earlier requested Bemba to disband his private security force. Bemba says this shows he is being specifically targeted.

    The country's chief prosecutor issued a warrant for his arrest, while Bemba claimed asylum in the South African embassy in Kinshasa, before travelling to Portugal in April.

    Congo's senate granted Bemba permission to leave the country for 60 days to seek medical treatment later extending that by 45-days, but that period expired at midnight on Tuesday.


    Nick Clark, reporting for Al Jazeera, met Bemba in Portugal's Algarve region, where Bemba said he feared for his life and the lives of his children.

    He said Congo's current government was a "dictatorship system" and called for freedom for the opposition.

    "[Bemba] refused to comply with the agreement that he had signed himself. It was agreed that all the former leaders would have a certain number of policemen to protect them"
    But Aime Sangara, a member of parliament in Kabila's coalition government, dismissed suggestions that Bemba was being specifically targeted.

    "Bemba is not the only former rebel leader who will be involved in the elections ... other rebel leaders are here and they are living safely with their families," he said.

    "I don't think it is up to president Kabila to guarantee the security of senator Bemba because we have, I believe, put in place institutions that make provision for the protection of all Congolese people and special measures have been taken ... to protect the political leaders who had power during the period of transition."

    Speaking about Bemba's private security forces, which had been involved in the clashes in March, Sangara said the government had been forced to act when Bemba's forces were not disbanded.

    "He refused to comply with the agreement that he had signed himself. It was agreed that all the former leaders would have a certain number of policemen to protect them."

    Sangara said: "If he wants to have 100 or 200 people protecting him while other leaders are having 12 or 15, as was agreed, I think it would be irresponsible of the government not to try to stop him."

    Bemba is also thought to be under investigation by the International Criminal Court in The Hague over allegations of murder and mass rape during Congo's civil war but Bemba dismissed the speculation as "not true,"

    "Check your information," he said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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