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President Sassou Nguesso of Republic of Congo seeks 4th term after 36 years in office

Republic of Congo’s 2.3 million voters go to the polls today 21 March to elect their president with Denis Sassou Nguesso, one of Africa’s longest serving leaders set to extend his 36 years’ in office.

President Sassou Nguesso

Nguesso, 77, nicknamed “Emperor,” has an iron grip on Congo-Brazzaville, which is rich in oil and diamond, but with the majority of the country’s 5.5 million population living in poverty.

Six other candidates are supposed to be contesting the presidency, but his strongest rival Guy Parfait Kolelas is down with covid-19, fighting for his life in hospital.

Nguesso, a trained paratrooper first came to power in 1979 under one-party system in the former French colony, notorious for civil strife, including military coups and civil wars, corruption, bad governance and huge foreign debt.

He stepped down in 1992 but returned to power in 1997. Nguesso then won presidential votes in 2002 and 2009, but organized a controversial referendum in 2015 that enabled him to change the constitution in for his tenure elongation by removing the 70-year age bar and reducing the presidential term to five years from seven.

With the highly divisive referendum and constitutional changes, rejected by opposion groups, he won another presidential vote in 2016 and later ensured the jailing of two of his opponents.

Nguesso and his son have be accused of financial crimes in the US and France, but looks set to continue in office after Sunday’s vote, considered an academic exercise by political experts.

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