Africa News

Candidate hospitalised with Covid in Republic of Congo elections

The Republic of Congo pressed ahead on Sunday with an election in which Denis Sassou Nguesso, the country’s president, is widely expected to extend his 36 years in power, while the leading opposition candidate remained hospitalised with Covid-19.

The watchdog group NetBlocks reported an internet blackout that began in the central African country around midnight on election day, and the government issued no statement on Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas’s condition.

While the constitution allows for an election to be delayed if a candidate is unable to participate in the vote, polling stations in Brazzaville opened at 8am as scheduled, observers said.

Mr Kolelas, 61, had skipped his final campaign event on Friday after telling some reporters a day earlier that he feared he had malaria. A video circulating on social media on Saturday showed him wearing an oxygen mask and with a blood-pressure cuff on his arm as he lay in a hospital bed.

“My dear compatriots, I am in trouble. I am fighting death,” the candidate said in a weak-sounding voice after removing his oxygen mask.

“However, I ask you to stand up and vote for change. I would not have fought for nothing.”

Campaign spokesperson Cyr Mayanda told the Associated Press on Sunday that Mr Kolelas’s condition was stable, but that plans were under way for a medical evacuation to France for further treatment. Mr Kolelas came second to Mr Sassou Nguesso in the 2016 presidential election with about 15 per cent of the vote.

The opposition figure has been particularly critical of the incumbent leader in recent days, declaring that the Republic of Congo has become “a police state”.

Mr Sassou Nguesso is the third-longest-serving president in Africa, ruling from 1979 to 1992 and since 1997 in a nation often overshadowed by the Democratic Republic of Congo, its much larger neighbour. The Republic of Congo has had fewer than 10,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, and 134 confirmed deaths.

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