The leading opposition presidential candidate in a presidential election in Congo Brazzaville died on Sunday, a day after the country went to the polls.
Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas was hospitalized on the eve of the elections and died of COVID-19 as he was being taken to France for treatment, his campaign director Christian Cyr Rodrigue Mayanda according to AFP news on Monday.
Mayanda said Kolelas died in an aircraft which came to pick him from Brazzaville on Sunday afternoon. Media reports had earlier indicated that he has contracted the deadly coronavirus.
Kolelas finished runner-up to leader Denis 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. The opposition figure has been particularly critical of the incumbent leader in recent days, declaring that the Republic of Congo had become “a police state”
Kolelas skipped his final campaign event on Friday after telling some reporters a day earlier that he feared he had malaria.
A video circulating on social media dated Friday showed Kolelas, 61, wearing an oxygen mask and with a blood pressure cuff on his arm as he lay in a hospital bed.
“My dear compatriots, I am in trouble. I am fighting death,” the candidate said in a weak voice after removing his oxygen mask. “However, I ask you to stand up and vote for change. I would not have fought for nothing.”
Kolelas was seen as the main rival to Nguesso, who has led the central African country for a total of 36 years.
In his statement, Mayanda called on Kolelas’ supporters to rally at 1100 am local time (1000 GMT).
“We’ll continue to count the ballots. He was ahead in a number of areas,” he said.
However, provisional election results are not expected for days, but Sassou Nguesso is widely expected to win.