Africa, Elections, Human rights

Congolese millionaire politician Moise Katumbi restarts US lobbying ahead of 2023 election

Millionaire Congolese politician Moise Katumbi Chapwe has relaunched his US lobbying campaign after a brief pause following his return from exile in 2019.

The former governor of Katanga province has hired international law firm King & Spalding to lobby on human rights violations, anti-bribery and anti-corruption legislation, child labor, economic and environmental cooperation, and international trade and investment, according to a new lobbying filing. The firm is expected to arrange meetings with Congress and the Joe Biden administration and engage with think tanks, media and other groups.

The engagement was effective June 3 and is worth €40,000 per month (around $48,500) for an indefinite amount of time, with €125,000 ($151,500) to be paid in advance. Registered to lobby on the account are J.C. Boggs, a partner with King & Spalding’s Government Advocacy and Public Policy group (bio) and a former senior counsel to the Senate Banking and Governmental Affairs committees, and Steven Kupka, a partner in the firm’s Corporate, Finance & Investments Group (bio).

A businessman who made a fortune in mining and other industries, Katumbi fled the Democractic Republic of the Congo in 2016 after being accused of hiring foreign mercenaries following his announcement that he was running for president against incumbent Joseph Kabila. During his exile in Brussels he retained the services of US lobbying firm Akin Gump to advocate for “free and fair elections” (the firm previously had a $300,000-a-year contract with Katumbi’s Mining Compnay of Katanga from 2013 to 2016).

Akin Gump in turn hired the DCI Group and RMG Africa Advisors as subcontractors on the account (see chart below).

In addition, London election campaign management company Gabara Strategies briefly retained the services of Washington PR firm Blueprint Communications and law firm Brownstein Hyatt in 2017 to build support for his candidacy with the Donald Trump administration and try to organize a US visit. The trip never happened.

When the elections were rescheduled in 2018 after a two-year delay, Katumbi was barred from running. He ended up backing Martin Fayulu and lobbied on his behalf. Fayulu lost to Felix Tshisekedi in December 2018 (Kabila did not run for re-election), but Katumbi and his lobbyists challenged the results until the US State Department endorsed the election in late January 2019.

At one point, Katumbi was involved in no fewer than three lobbying campaigns simultaneously.

In addition to his own lobbying, which ended in March 2020, Katumbi also bankrolled a separate Akin Gump agreement with Fayulu himself. That contract lasted from December 2018 until February 2019.

Separately, the so-called Group of Seven, a political coalition of former Kabila allies who broke with him in 2015, retained Ballard Partners from September 2017 to May 2019 for $50,000 per month. Katumbi was also part of that group.

In addition, a pair of Africa lobbyists, former Gerald Ford speechwriter George Denison and former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Hank Cohen, paired up in 2015 to represent a US domestic group called the Coalition for a Free Democratic Congo they said was “associated with” Katumbi and Tshisekedi. The pair were paid a total of $360,000 to “promote and encourage democratic practices in the DRC” but haven’t disclosed any payments or activities since 2018.

Lobbying and PR on behalf of Moise Katumbi

King & Spalding
Moise Katumbi
Effective June 3, 2021
€40,000 ($48,500)
per month
Akin Gump
Moise Katumbi
April 2016 – March 2020
$1.09 million
DCI Group
Moise Katumbi
(via Akin Gump)
April 2016 – Dec. 2019
(from Akin Gump)
RMG Africa Advisors
Moise Katumbi
(via Akin Gump)
Sept. 2017 – Dec. 2017
(from Akin Gump)
Blueprint Communications
Moise Katumbi
(via Gabara Strategies)
July 2017 – Sept. 2017
(from Gabara Strategies)
Brownstein Hyatt
Moise Katumbi
(via Blueprint Communications)
July 2017 – Sept. 2017
(from Blueprint Communications)
Akin Gump
Martin Fayulu
(as part of Katumbi contract)
Dec. 2018 – Feb. 2019
DCI Group
Martin Fayulu
(via Akin Gump)
Dec. 2018 – Feb. 2019
Ballard Partners
Group of Seven
Oct. 2017 – May 2019
George Denison /
Herman Cohen
Coalition for a Free
Democratic Congo
Aug. 2015 – present
(currently inactive)
Source: Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA)

Following his return home, the former governor has relaunched his own political movement, Together for the Republic. He is now looking toward the 2023 election rather than revisiting the one from 2018.

“I am hopeful that President Tshisekedi’s efforts to open the political space to opposition exiles such as myself will be respected by others such as the former President, Joseph Kabila, and that my return will be without event and that I will be secure and safe during my visit,” he wrote to US Ambassador Michael Hammer, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), then-House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) and Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Karen Bass (D-Calif.) in May 2019 letters thanking them for their support. “Regardless, I must return and help lead my people in their constitutional efforts to make our country become the beacon of democracy and prosperity that I know it can be.”

Meanwhile Tshisekedi has hired his own lobbyists to defend his legitimacy in Washington. Although he ran against Kabila’s chosen candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, some critics accused him of cutting a deal with Kabila to gain power.

The Canadian Caroline Law Corp. represented him pro bono from March 2018 to April 2019. In January 2019, soon after his election, Tshisekedi signed a one-month, $90,000 contract with Avenue Strategies Global to help organize a trip to Washington. That March, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed him at the State Department and expressed support for his “change agenda” to tackle corruption and insecurity.

Most recently, a consulting firm in Kinshasa called the REM Corp. run by Tshisekedi adviser Rafael Papismedov hired former Bill Clinton press aide Steven Rabinowitz and his Washington-based Bluelight Strategies on a six-month, $67,500 contract to help organize Washington meetings for Congolese officials including possibly President Tshisekedi himself. The contract runs from March 1 through Sept. 6.

Update: This story was updated on June 15 and June 16 with more details about Moise Katumbi’s past lobbying.