Congolese leading opposition figure Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas has passed away en route to France for treatment for Covid-19.
Kolelas died hours after polls in the Republic of Congo had closed to elect a new leader in which he was running for.
Speaking to Congo Media Time, Rodrigue Mayanda, Kolelas’ campaign director, said “He had taken off from Brazzaville and had arrived in Paris. It is at the time of disembarking the patient [Kolelas] to put him in the ambulance that he passed away.”
The 61 year old was hospitalized since Friday in a private clinic in Brazzaville, the country’s capital and was placed in the Intensive Care Unit before being evacuated to Paris mid-afternoon on voting day March 21.
His hospitalization had cast doubts on whether the vote would take place on Sunday. According to Article 59 of the electoral law “If, before the first round, one of the candidates dies or is unable to participate in the vote, the constitutional judge announces the postponement of the election.” A procedure that the campaign team had intended to invoke when Kolelas was incapacitated.
Nevertheless, the candidate of the Union of Humanist Democrats (Udh-Yuki) ruled this out once he regained consciousness and asked his supporters to “stand up and vote for change. I would not have fought for nothing,” he stated in a video posted on social platforms.
This is the first time that a presidential hopeful has died during an electoral process in the Republic of Congo.
Kolelas was one of six candidates running against President Denis Sassou Nguesso in the March 21 elections. He served in the government of Sassou Nguesso as Minister of Marine and Inland Fishing from 2007 to 2009 and as Minister of the Civil Service from 2009 to 2015. In 2016, the former Civil Service Minister went on to contest in the presidential elections and came in second.
The 61 year old had formulated a plan to turnaround the country based on decentralization, a concept that envisions a subdivision of Congo into four autonomous provinces.