The leading opposition candidate in Congo-Brazzaville’s presidential election is in hospital with Covid-19 while voting is under way.
After casting his ballot, President Sassou N’Guesso, who is widely expected to extend his 36-year rule, said the government was aware of opposition candidate Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas’ illness and had taken the steps necessary for him to be transferred to France for further treatment.
Kolelas, who is diabetic, is one of six candidates running against Sassou Nguesso.
A video circulating on social media Saturday showed Kolelas 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-sounding 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 placed second to Sassou N’Guesso in the country’s 2016 presidential election with about 15% of the vote. The opposition figure has been particularly critical of the incumbent leader in recent days, declaring that Republic of Congo had become “a police state.”
Sassou N’Guesso is the third-longest serving president in Africa, ruling from 1979-1992 and then again since 1997 in this nation often overshadowed by its vast neighbor Congo.
Republic of Congo has had fewer than 10,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, with 134 confirmed deaths.