He is one of the most controversial figures the troubled Democratic Republic of Congo has ever produced.
At the time the DRC was consumed by a civil war which had sucked in over five other countries, Bemba was the face of the rebel movement that was terrorizing the country. He was powerful, feared and wealthy.
A longtime associate of the country's long serving dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, Bemba made business connections during that ruinous Mobutu reign.
At one point, towards the end of Mobutu's era, Bemba served as his personal assistant. There is no doubt that it was then learnt the art of ruthlessness which would serve him well for many years to come.
Former Zaire President Mobutu Sese Seko ( Photo Courtesy)
Following the collapse of the Mobutu regime in 1997, rebel leader Laurent Désire Kabila took over the leadership. But a rebellion would soon break out in the Eastern side of the country with Bemba being the leader behind the insurrection.
Backed by Uganda and Rwanda, Bemba was ready to march his soldiers to the capital, Kinshasa to take over power. But he was stopped by the Angolan and Zimbabwe forces on a peacekeeping mission in the country.
Following the assassination of Kabila in 2001, his son Joseph Kabila took over. At the time, DRC was technically ungovernable with rebels controlling almost half of the country.
Former DRC Vice President Jean Pierre Bemba ( Photo Courtesy)
Keen to end the war which at the time is said to have claimed around 2 million people, Kabila and Bemba entered a peace deal which led to the formation of unity government with the rebel leader appointed as one of the four Vice Presidents.
In 2006, the country's first ever democratic election was conducted with Kabila and Bemba facing off.
Bemba forced Kabila into the second round but lost amid rigging claims. Fighting would break out again with the Ex- Vice President alleging threats on his life.
He fled to Belgium where he was arrested in 2008 after an international arrest warrant was issued against him and was handed over to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
In 2016, he was convicted to a 50-year jail sentence over crimes against humanity. He successfully appealed the ruling and was released in 2018.
Upon returning home, he joined the race to succeed Kabila but was barred by the electoral body. He would later throw his weight behind opposition candidate Martin Fayulu who lost to Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo.
Though he remains an influential figure in Kinshasa, it is very unlikely that Bemba will ever make a comeback in DRC politics.
To his critics, his oversize ego has further dimmed his political star.
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