A family member said the leading opposition presidential candidate in the Republic of Congo was receiving treatment after being diagnosed with coronavirus, casting doubt on Sunday’s election.
Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, 61, had canceled his final campaign event on Friday after telling reporters the day before he suspected he was suffering from malaria. Kolelas is being evacuated abroad for further treatment, according to a relative who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. Kolelas was wearing an oxygen mask and a blood pressure cuff on his arm as he was hospitalized, according to a video circulating on social media on Friday.
“I’m in trouble, my dear compatriots. ” After taking off his oxygen mask, the candidate declares, “I’m fighting death.”
“However, I implore you to take a stand and cast your vote for change. I wouldn’t have fought if it hadn’t been for a good reason.”
A campaign spokesman confirmed the video’s authenticity and Kolelas’ hospitalization. Two people familiar with the Kolelas’ test results told the Associated Press late Saturday that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.
His illness had no discernible effect on Sunday’s election. If a candidate succumbs or is unable to compete in the election, an article in the Congolese Constitution allows for a postponement. The government and long-serving President Denis Sassou N’Guesso had no immediate reaction to the developments.
Kolelas came in second to Sassou N’Guesso in the 2016 presidential election, receiving about 15% of the vote. In recent days, the opposition figure has been especially critical of the incumbent leader, stating that the Republic of Congo had devolved into a “police state.”
Sassou N’Guesso is Africa’s third-longest-serving president, having led the country from 1979 to 1992 and again from 1997, despite being overshadowed by its vast neighbor Congo.
Since the pandemic began, the Republic of Congo has had fewer than 10,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 134 confirmed deaths.