The body of Democratic Republic of Congo’s veteran opposition leader, Etienne Tshisekedi was brought home on Thursday for burial, two years after he died in Brussels aged 84.
His body was not allowed back home in 2017 during the tenure of former President Joseph Kabila. That means the body was stuck in Belgium until now.
But once his son Felix became president last year the deadlock over his body ended, paving way for a state burial on Saturday.
The plane carrying Etienne’s body touched down in Kinshasa airport on Thursday evening and was greeted by a delegation led by his son Félix, the President.
Thousands of his supporters and other wellwishers gathered to pay their respects. They consider the return of his body back home significant.
A religious service, a public display of the closed casket and a rally are all scheduled for Friday.
That will be followed by a state funeral on Saturday in the town of Nsele, east of Kinshasa.
Six African heads of state have been invited to attend. Those include leaders of Angola, Rwanda and the neighbouring Republic of Congo.
The late Tshisekedi stood up to Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled then Zaire, for more than three decades before Mobutu was overthrown by Rwanda, Uganda and other forces.
He was also the main civilian opponent of Laurent Kabila, who took power in 1997. He remain an opponent to his son, President Joseph Kabila, who ruled between since 2001 and 2018.
Tshisekedi was set to take the top post in a transitional council agreed in December 2016 under a deal to pave the way for Kabila to leave power in 2017.
He boycotted elections in 2006, alleging vote fraud but lost in a 2011 race which was also characterized by allegations of widespread voting irregularities.