This week the Republic of Congo saw the top presidential opposition candidate hospitalized with COVID-19 complications. Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas was hospitalized on election day. The main opposition challenger’s election campaign reported that the leader had COVID-19 and would be evacuated to France.
Polls open in the Republic of Congo.
Polls opened this week in the Republic of Congo with President Denis Sassou Nguesso widely expected to win the elections. President Sassou, a 77-year-old former paratrooper, rose to power in 1979. In 1992 the leader lost Congo’s first multi-party elections. He, however, reclaimed the presidency in 1997 after a civil war. The President, later on, changed the constitution to extend term limits.
Many of those challenging President Denis have complained of interference with their campaigns by the government. Out of the six challengers, experts considered Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas the election’s front-runner challenger. Kolelas lacks significant support outside the country’s two largest cities, which has led to his past failure. Before election day, Kolelas complained about authorities blocking him from boarding a plane to make a campaign stop in the north.
Apart from interfering with candidate campaigns, the government also ensured an internet blackout across the country on election day. European Union and United Nations observers were not invited to monitor the elections. Furthermore, the interior ministry refuses to allow the Catholic Church’s 1,100 observers to take part. Citizens in Congo remained optimistic that the vote would be peaceful in contrast to a previous election in 2016. The election in 2016 saw violence erupt all across the Republic of Congo.
Opposition Candidate Sassou N’Guesso Dies
On election day, however, the main opposition candidate Sassou N’Guesso fell ill. Sassou skipped his last campaign event suspecting that he had contracted malaria. The former minister released a video on social media from his hospital bed where he told his supporters he was fighting death. In the video, Kolelas breathed heavily and held an oxygen mask next to his face. He urged Congolese citizens to go vote for him as he would be the change Congo needs. For many, the video he released represented the last time they saw the 61-year-old politician.
Kolelas’s aides, later on, said they had flown the leader to France for further treatment. But this week, spokesman Justin Nzoloufoua confirmed Kolelas’s death. Spokesman Justin Nzoloufoua declined to give the cause of death for the former leader. He, however, said Kolelas died while medical practitioners tried to evacuate him for medical treatment.
Experts saw Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas as the main challenger to President Denis Sassou Nguesso in the recent elections. In 2016, Kolelas, the son of former Prime Minister Bernard Kolelas, won 15% of the vote in that year’s election, finishing in second place. Due to this, many expected Kolelas would finish second to President Denis in the ongoing election. President Denis Sassou N’Guesso has been one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders. The President looks to extend his 36-year rule in Congo during the ongoing election.