Supporters of the 2015 referendum to remove presidential term limits and allow Sassou to run for another term demonstrate in front of the parliament building in Brazzaville. Elections in the Republic of the Congo have been marred by fraud and violence. Photo credit: Wikimedia/Daniel Massamba (CC BY 2.0)
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The Republic of the Congo (sometimes called Congo-Brazzaville) is due to hold a presidential election on March 20, 2021.
Denis Sassou Nguesso has ruled the Republic of the Congo as president almost continuously since 1979. Called a “Pierre Cardin Marxist” because of his affection for luxury goods, Sassou has ruled with an iron fist and maintained power by repressing his opponents. He lost an election to Pascal Lissouba from the main opposition party Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS) in 1992. However, Sassou ousted Lissouba in 1997, following a civil war, the country’s second in a decade. He has remained president ever since.
Prior to the 2016 presidential election (the country’s most recent), Sassou Nguesso held a referendum to remove presidential term limits, which sparked protests, some violent. A crackdown on the opposition followed. The opposition boycotted the referendum, and it therefore passed overwhelmingly
The opposition called the last elections, in 2016, an “electoral holdup” amidst widespread reports of electoral fraud and an internet and mobile blackout. Following the election, Sassou jailed his two of his opponents: Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko and Andre Okombi Salissa.
Sassou is running for yet another term. His Congolese Party of Labor (PCT) unanimously nominated him as a candidate.
Pascal Tsaty Mabiala will be the candidate of Lissouba’s UPADS, which is currently the main opposition party, holding eight seats in the legislature (Lissouba died in August). He served as defense minister during Lissouba’s presidency. The other challengers include Guy Brice Parfait Kolélas, who placed second in 2016 with 15 percent of the vote, former finance minister Mathias Dzon, economist Anatole Limbongo Ngoka (himself a former PCT activist).
Additionally, Andréa Ngombet, the founder of the Sassoufit movement, whose name is a play on the French phrase “ça souffit” (that’s enough), is running, though largely campaigning on social media from France.
Elie Smith, Bloomberg (October 22, 2020): Congo Republic Plans to Settle Domestic Debt Ahead of 2021 Vote
Arthur Malu-Malu and Cécile Manciaux, Jeune Afrique (September 1, 2020 – in French): Congo: Who is challenging Denis Sassou Nguesso?
Jeune Afrique (August 24, 2020 – in French): Congo-Brazzaville: Former president Pascal Lissouba has died in France
Andréa Ngombet, Vanguard Africa (March 20, 2020): We mustn’t allow another sham election in the Republic of Congo
Amnesty International (March 23, 2020): Congo-Brazzaville: Opposition supporters spending fourth month in jail must be released
AP (December 31, 2019): Congo’s Veteran President Set to Run Anew in 2021
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