Congo Opposition Candidate Dies Of COVID-19
Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas, the Republic of Congo opposition candidate has died of Covid-19.
He died while being transferred to France for treatment, his campaign director said Monday, the day after presidential elections in which he was the main challenger.
Kolelas was seen as the main rival to veteran leader Denis Sassou Nguesso, who was expected to win Sunday’s vote.
The election was boycotted by the main opposition amid 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 sixty-year-old tested positive for Covid-19 on Friday afternoon, and was unable to host his last campaign meeting in Brazzaville.
On 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 11 am local time (1000 GMT).
“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.
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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He was the only serious contender left facing the president on Sunday after a string of boycotts, withdrawn candidacies and exclusions.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.
In some areas voters complained that their names weren’t on the electoral list.
“The only uncertainty is what score Mr Sassou will tell the electoral commission to give him,” said Congolese novelist Emmanuel Dongala, contacted by AFP at his US home.
Sassou Nguesso, 77, a former paratrooper, first rose to power in 1979 and has since accumulated 36 years in office, making him one of the world’s longest-serving leaders.
Speaking after he cast his ballot, Sassou Nguesso said that the “atmosphere of peace” during the election campaign — marked by police crackdowns on the opposition — was “a good sign for our democracy”.
But when asked about security when election results are announced, a moment that triggered a wave of violence at the last vote in 2016, he responded: “I’m not God”.
Shops were closed and only security vehicles were seen in Brazzaville city centre during voting.
The largest opposition group, the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy or UPADS, is boycotting the poll in which some 2.5 million people are eligible to vote. UPADS — the group of former president Pascal Lissouba, who died in France last August — is the only opposition party to have a parliamentary group in the current national assembly.
“Overall, the Congolese shunned the ballot box,” said rights activist Brice Makosso.
“The polling stations were empty.” Flanked by its giant neighbour the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Gabon, the former French colony has abundant oil reserves and most of its budget comes from petroleum revenue.
But its economy is in a slump, hurt by a collapse in world crude prices, long-standing debt, and the pandemic, as well as a reputation for corruption.
Sassou Nguesso campaigned on agricultural development and portrayed himself as a defender of Congo’s youth — the average age of the population of five million is just 19, according to UN figures.
After first coming to power in 1979, Sassou Nguesso was forced to introduce multi-party elections in 1991 and was defeated at the ballot box a year later.
But he returned to power in 1997 following a prolonged civil war. He has won every election since, which the oppositions have mostly slammed as fraudulent.
A constitutional amendment in 2015, which ended a ban on presidential candidates aged over 70 and scrapped a two-term limit, allowed him to run again in 2016. [AFP]
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BREAKING:Soldier Guarding Ugandan Minister Shoots Him Dead
A Ugandan national army soldier has shot and killed a government minister he was guarding.
Retired Colonel Charles Okello Engola, who was the deputy minister for gender and labour, was shot at his home on Tuesday morning.
It is not yet clear whether there was an argument between the soldier and Col Engola.
The soldier, yet to be officially identified, then shot himself dead.
Before turning the gun on himself, some eyewitness said the soldier walked around the neighbourhood shooting in the air.
Initial reports suggest a number of people may be injured and videos on social media showed locals gathering at the scene in shock.
Col Engola was a senior government official, and had previously served as a deputy minister for defence.
The Speaker of Uganda’s parliament confirmed Col Engola’s death in a short statement while presiding over the morning session.
“This morning I received sad news that Hon Engola has been shot by his bodyguard and after, shot himself. May his soul rest in peace. That was God’s plan. We can’t change anything,” Anita Among told MPs on Tuesday.
At 80, U.S. President Biden Announces Re-election Bid
President Joe Biden on Tuesday formally announced his bid for reelection, setting off a battle to convince the country his record merits another four years in the White House and his age won’t impede his ability to govern.
In a video released early Tuesday, Biden framed next year’s contest as a fight against Republican extremism, implicitly arguing he needed more time to fully realize his vow to restore the nation’s character.
“When I ran for president four years ago, I said we are in a battle for the soul of America. And we still are,” he said in the video, which opened with images of the January 6, 2021, insurrection and abortion rights activists protesting at the US Supreme Court.
“The question we are facing is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom. More rights or fewer,” Biden says in voiceover narration. “I know what I want the answer to be and I think you do too. This is not a time to be complacent. That’s why I’m running for reelection.”
Biden’s official declaration ends any lingering doubts about his intentions, and begins a contest that could evolve into a rematch with his 2020 rival, former President Donald Trump. He enters the race with a significant legislative record but low approval ratings, a conundrum his advisers have so far been unable to solve. Already the oldest president in history, he also confronts persistent questions about his age.
The launch comes four years to the day Biden made his 2020 bid official. That race became a mission to restore the country’s character and prevent Trump from achieving a second term.
Biden’s fourth and final presidential campaign will rest on similar themes. Just as he did in 2020, Biden is making an appeal to the nation’s ideals, particularly with the specter of Trump’s return.
His announcement video warns against “MAGA extremists” who he says are “dictating what health care decisions women can make, banning books, and telling people who they can love.”
“Every generation of Americans has faced a moment when they’ve had to defend democracy. Stand up for our personal freedoms. Stand up for the right to vote and our civil rights,” he says. “And this is our moment.”
But Biden’s campaign will also ride on promoting the achievements made during the first two years of his presidency — and an argument he needs more time to “finish the job.”
“I know we can,” he says.
The Republican National Committee immediately rolled out an attack ad against Biden, unveiling what it called an “AI-generated look into the country’s possible future if Joe Biden is re-elected.” The dystopian video intermixes “news” of Biden’s reelection in 2024 with faux reports of high crime, international turmoil, rampant illegal immigration and financial calamity.
Little enthusiasm for another Biden run amid concerns about his age
No major Democratic challengers are expected to emerge, and Biden is likely to enjoy an easy path to his party’s nomination. Only two challengers are in the race: author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine activist and environmental lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Still, at 80, Biden is the nation’s oldest president. Polls have consistently reflected concern about his age even among Democrats.
Most Americans — and even a majority of Democrats — in recent surveys have shown little enthusiasm for another Biden run.
A series of upcoming challenges, from the ongoing war in Ukraine to a still-uncertain economy, could provide hurdles to Biden’s reelection. And now that power in Washington is divided, the GOP-controlled House has largely dashed hopes for major legislative accomplishments in the two years ahead of the 2024 vote.
India Overtakes China As Most Populous Nation
India has become the world’s most populous country, overtaking China, according to the United Nations.
According to UN estimates on Wednesday, India’s population is 142.86 crore against China’s 142.57 crore.
This is the first time that India has topped the UN list of most populous countries since it started collecting population data in 1950.
China is facing a looming demographic decline as birth rates plunge and its workforce ages. Several regions have also announced plans to boost birth rates — but official efforts have so far failed to reverse the decline.
India has no recent official data on how many people it has because it has not conducted a census since 2011.
India’s once in a decade census was due to be held in 2021 but was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly 1/4th of India’s population is under the age of 14, according to the UN data. 68 per cent of the population is in the 15 to 64 age group, while 7 per cent is above the age of 65.
Estimates by different agencies have suggested that India’s population is expected to keep rising for nearly three decades before it peaks at 165 crore and then would start declining.
The new UN report also estimated that the global population will have hit 8.045 billion by mid-2023.
Other countries, mostly in Europe and Asia, can expect a demographic slump over the coming decades, according to other UN figures published last July which forecast how the world’s population will develop between now and 2100.
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