Congolese will vote in presidential elections on Sunday. Most citizens have only ever known one head of state during their lives: Denis Sassou Nguesso, whose grip on power looks set to continue.
Billboards plastered with election propaganda in the Congolese capital Brazzaville shout out to the passersby: “Plus loin ensemble” — “we’ll go further together.” The posters are signed “DSP”: Denis Sassou Nguesso.
On March 21, the president of the Republic of Congo will face off against six opponents in the run for another term.
“Sassou Nguesso has been in office for 37 years now, and he will hold on to power, by force if necessary,” Sadio Kante-Morel told DW.
The journalist knows what she’s talking about.
She was persecuted by Nguesso’s secret police and arrested several times, after protesting against the extension of his term in office.
In 2014, the pressure became too much to bear: Kante-Morel left Brazzaville and went into exile in France.
“I took to the streets in Brazzaville with banners that read ‘Congo is not Nguesso’s private property’.”
But Nguesso does not tolerate dissent: “He had a referendum whipped through in 2015, that gave him three more terms of five years each,” said Kante-Morel.
Which means that he has ten more years to go. “The regime wants to maintain a facade of democracy, but dictatorship prevails,” explained Kante-Morel.
Doubts about the election’s legality
In February, the country’s Episcopal Conference expressed “serious reservations” about the organization of the presidential election.
It saw no transparency in the planned counting process of the ballots, particularly because of the curfew in place to fight the COVID pandemic.
They also pointed out the lack of independent election observers. Several candidates have been excluded from the race.
The clergy called the 2016 elections a farce and claimed that, this time too, the electoral system will be controlled by Nguesso’s Congolese Party of Labor (PCT).
A part of the opposition announced form the outset that it would boycott the election.
Nevertheless, apart from the long-time ruler, six candidates are standing for election on March 21.
The roster includes former Finance Minister Mathias Dzon and Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas, who came second in the 2016 election. Observers say the opposition doesn’t stand a chance.
This article has been adapted from German