Congo's presidential candidate dies from Covid on election day

Guy Brice Kolelas died on election day enroute to France for treatment (Image credit: Getty)

The Republic of the Congo’s main presidential opposition candidate, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, has died from coronavirus aged 60.

Mr Kolelas was admitted to hospital a day before the election. He was being taken to France for treatment, his campaign director Christian Cyr Rodrigue Mayanda told AFP news agency on Monday.

Kolelas had been seen as the main rival to Denis Sassou Nguesso, 77, who was widely expected to win Sunday’s vote. On Saturday, Kolelas 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.”

Kolelas skipped his final campaign event on Friday after telling some reporters a day earlier that he feared he had malaria.

Kolelas came second to Sassou Nguesso in the 2016 presidential election with about 15 percent of the vote. His father, Bernard Kolelas, was briefly Congo’s prime minister in 1997 during the country’s civil war.

He had been quite critical of the incumbent leader prior to the election, declaring that the Republic of Congo had become “a police state”.

Nicknamed Pako, he was the fourth of 12 children. He studied economics in France and afterwards taught in French universities. He entered politics later, on the advice of his father who fled to Mali with his family in 1997 when Sassou Nguesso fought his way back into power.

Two years later, the MCCI party founded by his father in 1990 signed a deal with Sassou Nguesso’s PCT, and in 2009 the younger Kolelas joined the government as fisheries minister, later becoming minister for public services.

Kolelas was supported in 2016 by a former rebel chief, Frédéric Bintsamou, alias Pastor Ntumi, who like him came from the Pool region in southern Congo. After Bintsamou disputed the results, Pool erupted into violence, which ended the following year.