On the cusp of an election, a leading African candidate is striken with COVID
GIN | 3/25/2021, midnight
Another African leader has lost the fight for his life––this time in a private hospital in Brazzaville, where he was last seen lifting up his oxygen mask and warning his supporters that he is “fighting death.”
Family members of Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas––the leading opposition candidate in Congo-Brazzaville’s current presidential election––were unable to bring him to France in time for treatment of COVID-19 while voting is underway.
The 61-year-old Kolelas, who suffered from diabetes, missed his final campaign event last week after saying a day earlier that he feared he had malaria, according to The Associated Press news agency.
In a video seen widely on social media, the candidate urged citizens to go out and vote. Speaking in French from his hospital bed, Kolelas was quoted to say: “My dear compatriots, I am in trouble. I am fighting death. However, I ask you to stand up and vote for change. I would not have fought for nothing.”
Should Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso win a majority of votes, he will add four more years to his 36 years in power, making him the third-longest serving president in Africa, governing from 1979-1992 and then again since 1997 in this nation often overshadowed by its vast neighbor, Democratic Republic of Congo.
Congo-Brazzaville is far from a showcase of success for the economic policies of the current president. More than 70% of food is imported and expensive and little if any of the billions earned from the sale of oil has been invested in upgrading the crumbling infrastructure. More than a third of those living in the capital are considered food insecure, according to journalist Malcolm Webb of Al-Jazeera.
President Sassou Nguesso’s campaign speeches have provoked ridicule on the social media site TikTok. How can the president blame anyone but himself for the failed policies when they occurred during his administration, the video makers asked.
This year the government blocked poll watchers from the vocal Catholic ministry, according to Father Felicien Mavoungou of the Catholic Church Peace and Justice Commission who was meant to be part of a team of observers. “On paper, it is a democracy since 1991,” he said. “But with such behavior, we need to question ourselves if we really are in a democracy.”