BRAZZAVILLE (AFP) – Republic of Congo opposition candidate Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas died of Covid-19 as he was being transferred to France for treatment yesterday, the day after presidential elections.
Kolelas was seen as the main rival to veteran leader Denis Sassou Nguesso.
The election was boycotted by the main opposition and under an Internet blackout, with critics voicing concerns over the transparency of the polls seen as tilted towards Sassou Nguesso.
Kolelas “died in the medical aircraft which came to get him from Brazzaville on Sunday afternoon”, his campaign director Christian Cyr Rodrigue Mayanda told AFP.
The 60-year-old tested positive for Covid-19 last Friday afternoon, and was unable to host his last campaign meeting in Brazzaville. Last Saturday, he posted a video from his sickbed, declaring he was “battling against death”.
“Rise up as one person. I’m fighting on my deathbed, you too fight for your change,” he urged his supporters, saying the election was “about the future of your children”. Mayanda called on supporters of Kolelas to rally at 11am local time.
“We’ll continue to count the ballots. He was ahead in a number of areas,” he said.
Kolelas came second in the presidential election of 2016, picking up 15 per cent of the vote according to official results.
He had pledged to release the two candidates from that vote sentenced in 2018 to 20 years in prison for “undermining state security”, former army general Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko and ex-minister Andre Okombi Salissa. He was only serious contender left facing the president on Sunday after a string of boycotts, withdrawn candidacies and exclusions.
Provisional election results are not expected for days. There were no reports of major incidents before polling stations closed, but AFP correspondents said access to the Internet and social media, as well as text messages, was cut.