In the face of escalating militia violence in the area, people of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo have pledged to support presidential candidate Moise Katumbi and prioritize security should he win on December 20.
At a rally in Goma on Thursday night, Katumbi spoke to hundreds of exuberant fans as part of his campaign to depose President Felix Tshisekedi, who is seeking reelection next month.
When choosing the next leader of Congo, the world’s greatest producer of cobalt and fifth-largest producer of copper, voters will be considering a number of important problems, including security.
In the mineral-rich east of the Congo, several opposing armed militia groups are engaged in conflict for territory and resources following a civil war that came to an end at the turn of the century.
In recent years, there has been a surge in fighting, mostly in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, as well as vicious attacks on civilians that have forced millions of people to flee their homes.
The M23 rebel group’s aggressive offensive has caused concern. Last year, the gang made a significant return, taking control of towns and villages as it moved into Goma’s periphery.
In Goma, where there have been violent protests against a United Nations peacekeeping force since 2022, partly because of concerns that it has failed to protect people, Katumbi assured the audience, “We shall tackle that problem once and for all.”
“I purchased a home in this area of Goma. “I refuse to live in a rented home,” said Katumbi, a multimillionaire entrepreneur who led the copper-rich Katanga province as governor between 2007 and 2015. “I promise not to touch my salary, not even a single day, until North Kivu and Ituri are liberated.”
Due to claims that the U.N. peacekeeping effort and the regional force stationed in East Africa last year have not been successful in quelling the rebels, Tshisekedi has urged for their expulsion.
In the presidential contest, Katumbi is one of more than two dozen contenders, which also includes Nobel Peace Prize-winning gynecologist Denis Mukwege and front-runner Martin Fayulu of the opposition.
Following conversations among major opposition groups about unifying behind a potential joint candidate to confront Tshisekedi, three aspirants withdrew their ambitions to support Katumbi.