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.
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He was the only serious contender left facing the president on Sunday after a string of boycotts, withdrawn candidacies and exclusions.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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Ex-president Jailed For Corruption
Mauritania’s former president, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, has been sentenced to five years in prison for money laundering and “illicit enrichment”.
Abdel Aziz led the West African country for a decade after coming to power in a 2008 coup and was an ally of Western powers fighting Islamist militants in the Sahel region. He had been on trial since January and denied corruption allegations.
The court found Abdel Aziz guilty of two of 10 charges late on Monday, following an inquiry into allegations of embezzlement of public property and corruption.
One of his lawyers called the ruling “a political verdict targeting a man and his family”. Prosecutors said the former head of state’s conviction was historic.
The court, which specialises in corruption and economic crimes, acquitted some of Abdel Aziz’s associates who had also been on trial, including two former prime ministers.
Abdel Aziz was succeeded in 2019 by a political ally, Mohamed Ould Ghazouani, who remains president, but Abdel Aziz’s government quickly came under scrutiny over actions including deals on offshore oil projects.
Abdel Aziz has the option of appealing his sentence at the Supreme Court.
Israel-Hamas Truce To Begin At 7am On Friday With First Hostages To Be Freed, Says Qatar
Thirteen women and children being held hostage by fighters in Gaza will be the first to be released – as the temporary truce in Gaza between Israel and Hamas begins at 7am local time (5am UK time) on Friday, Qatar has said.
Dr Majed al Ansari, spokesperson for Qatar’s foreign ministry, said it had received a list of the civilians to be freed around 4pm local time (2pm UK time) tomorrow – and families would be given priority.
He said it was expected Israel would release Palestinian prisoners in return as part of the deal.
“We are hoping that we don’t see any further delays,” he said.
“I think we have reached a point now where everything is in place, we are ready to go on the ground.”
The deal, agreed following talks mediated by Qatar, Egypt and the US, will include the Red Cross visiting the hostages and bringing medicines to them.
It would also mean hundreds of trucks carrying humanitarian, medical and fuel supplies would be allowed to enter Gaza, while Israel would halt all air missions over southern Gaza and maintain a daily six-hour daytime no-fly window in the north.
Dr al Ansari said humanitarian aid would start flowing into Gaza as soon as the truce begins, adding it was “a fraction” of what it needs.
The ceasefire had been set to take effect at 10am local time on Thursday (8am UK time) – after six weeks of fighting.
The structured agreement was reached and confirmed on Wednesday morning, but more than a day later an expected announcement of the official start time had yet to materialise.
Asked about the delay by reporters at a news conference in Doha, Dr al Ansari said discussions had been “very difficult and detailed”.
“We wanted to make sure that nothing would cause harm in the process of getting the hostages out, and the perimeters of the agreement are agreed upon in the operational sense, on both sides,” he said.
He added the temporary truce includes a comprehensive ceasefire in both north and southern Gaza – and it was hoped it will lead to a permanent truce.
Hamas has agreed to free 50 Israeli women and child hostages held by fighters in Gaza, in exchange for Israel releasing 150 Palestinian women and children from Israeli jails.
Israel had said the truce could last beyond the initial four days as long as the fighters free at least 10 hostages per day.
A Palestinian source has told the Reuters news agency a second wave of releases could see as many as 100 hostages freed by the end of the month.
Both sides have said they will go back to fighting once the truce is over.
Wife Of Gabon’s Deposed Leader Ali Bongo Jailed
Sylvia Bongo Ondimba Valentin, the wife of Gabon’s deposed leader Ali Bongo has been jailed, the AFP news agency said in a post on social media platform X on Thursday, citing a lawyer.
Gabon army officers seized power on Aug. 30, annulling an election minutes after an announcement that President Ali Bongo had won, which they said was not credible. Bongo, in power since 2009, had succeeded his father Omar Bongo, who ruled for 42 years.
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