Election officials in Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday released an official list of candidates for December's presidential election, formally excluding two heavyweight opposition figures.
"Now we have finished with the candidacy stage, we are in the home stretch for the December 23 elections," said electoral commission chief Corneille Nangaa as he unveiled the list.
More than two dozen people registered their bid with the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI), a much-contested panel tasked with overseeing the ballot in one of the Africa's biggest and most unstable nations.
It gave the green light to opposition figures Felix Tshisekedi and Vital Kamerhe, as well as to Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a hardline former interior minister backed by President Joseph Kabila.
But the list also confirmed the exclusion of former warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba and regional baron Moise Katumbi - a move that raised howls of protest from their powerful blocs of supporters.
Bemba has lashed what he calls a "parody of an election".
He accused Kabila - whom critics characterise as corrupt and manipulative - of pulling strings "to ensure that the government's candidate does not have a serious challenger."
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Bemba, 55, a former rebel and ex-vice president, declared his candidacy when he made a triumphant return home from Belgium after the International Criminal Court in The Hague acquitted him of war crimes charges.
But he was excluded by CENI, in a decision upheld by the Constitutional Court, on the grounds that the ICC had convicted him separately on charges of tampering with witnesses at his war-crimes trial.
That conviction and a one-year sentence were upheld by the ICC on Monday along with a $350 000 fine. Bemba's lawyer, Melinda Taylor, said in an email to AFP on Wednesday that he would file an appeal.
Katumbi, 53, a former Kabila ally and ex-governor of the mineral-rich province of Katanga, says he was blocked at the Zambian border to prevent him from returning to the country to file his candidacy.
He has lived in exile since 2016.