In Summary
  • The 55-year-old started life in Bogada in the northwest Equateur province of what is now the DRC, the son of a rich businessman close to dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled from 1965 until his ousting in 1997 and had named the country Zaire.

  • Young Bemba was schooled in Belgium, DRC's former colonial master, and went on to take over family businesses, using his popularity in the capital Kinshasa to build his wealth and expand into sectors such as mobile phones, air freight and television.

  • A former business associate described the heavy-set, round-headed Bemba — an imposing 1.90 metres (6 feet, 3 inches) tall — as "too impulsive, too authoritarian" as a boss.

KINSHASA,

Jean-Pierre Bemba, who was provisionally freed Tuesday by the International Criminal Court following an acquittal last week, is a former warlord and adversary of Congolese President Joseph Kabila.

His interim release relates to a case in which he was handed a one-year jail sentence and fined 300,000 euros ($350,000) in 2017 for bribing witnesses during his main war crimes trial.

He is still awaiting sentencing on July 4 in a secondary trial which he lost on appeal.

SCHOOL

Bemba, a former vice president of the Democratic Republic of Congo however won his main war crimes trial on appeal in which he was previously convicted and sentenced to 18 years for rapes, killings and looting committed by his militia in the Central African Republic (CAR).

Appeal judges said the 2016 verdict had "ignored significant testimonial evidence" that Bemba had had only limited ability to intervene.

The 55-year-old started life in Bogada in the northwest Equateur province of what is now the DRC, the son of a rich businessman close to dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled from 1965 until his ousting in 1997 and had named the country Zaire.

Young Bemba was schooled in Belgium, DRC's former colonial master, and went on to take over family businesses, using his popularity in the capital Kinshasa to build his wealth and expand into sectors such as mobile phones, air freight and television.

A former business associate described the heavy-set, round-headed Bemba — an imposing 1.90 metres (6 feet, 3 inches) tall — as "too impulsive, too authoritarian" as a boss.

"The social side was not his strong suit," the source added.

Bemba left Kinshasa in 1997 when the late rebel leader Laurent Desire Kabila, father of current president, overthrew Mobutu and gave the country its current name.

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