Published on :
At 77, Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has accumulated 36 years at the head of Congo-Brazzaville, hopes to be reelected in the first round of the presidential election on Sunday. Members of civil society express "serious reservations" about the transparency of the ballot. </p><div> <p>He was reelected in the first round in 2016 and intends to repeat the feat. The President of Congo-Brazzaville, Denis Sassou Nguesso, 77, hopes again to achieve a "knockout", as his posters proclaim, by obtaining a majority of the votes in the presidential election on Sunday
Five years ago, the victory of the Congolese Labor Party (PCT) candidate over his six rivals led to a deadly conflict.
Frédéric Bintsamou, better known as Pastor Ntumi, 56, had taken up arms in the Pool region (south) after the disputed re-election of the president in March 2016. The regular forces had counterattacked in a closed-door conflict. which had displaced 140,000 people, according to humanitarian sources.
The authorities had announced a ceasefire just before Christmas 2017.
The climate seems less heavy today. A few days ago, Frédéric Bintsamou felt that the election “should not be an opportunity to wake up the old demons of the division”.
The “galley” rather than the “war”
For Mariela, a high school student from Pointe-Noire, the economic capital, the calculation is quickly done: “Even if there is a hassle, there is no war like in other countries. It is better to stay with Sassou who puts us at peace in the country, at least that’s good. ”
The “galley” and the economic questions haunt the spirits of the voters in this oil country of five million inhabitants which anticipated a decline of 9% of its GDP with the Covid-19.
Even before the health crisis, per capita GDP peaked at $ 2,279 in 2019, against $ 3,922 in 2012 during the oil boom, according to the World Bank.
Faced with the all-oil deadlock, Denis Sassou Nguesso said he placed youth and the development of agriculture at the heart of his campaign, deeming “shameful” that the country imports most of what it consumes.
“The president recognizes in a way his own failure,” lashes activist Franck Nzila.
The transparency of the ballot in question
The two main rivals of the outgoing president are two former ministers who went to the opposition, Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas and Mathias Dzon.
Coming second five years ago, Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas has pledged to release the two 2016 candidates sentenced in 2018 to 20 years in prison for “endangering state security”, General Jean-Marie Mokoko and André Okombi Salissa.
In the bastion of Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas, the Pool region, a man sighs while waiting for hours for a freight train to travel 18 km. “We want change. I’m 51. When (the president) came to power, I was ten.”
The episcopal conference has already expressed “serious reservations” on the transparency of the ballot. The Catholic Church, which has been refused the accreditation of its observers, fears an Internet shutdown on Sunday, as in 2016.
The bishops’ conference, however, wants to test an application for computers and smartphones that should allow the minutes of all polling stations to be downloaded to have a real-time idea of the truth of the ballot boxes – except in the event of an Internet cut.
Other concerns: the authorities refused to accredit a journalist from Radio France Internationale (RFI), and a 77-year-old human rights activist was arrested a few days before the vote, for endangering state security.
As with every election in Central Africa, voices call out to France, a former colonial power and main donor. “The Republic of Congo, like French diplomacy, must reconnect with democracy,” wrote a collective of French and Congolese activists in a column published by Le Monde. “We call on France to condemn the pre-electoral deterioration of the political and civic climate”, add the signatories.
President Sassou Nguesso took power in 1979. He was defeated in the first pluralist elections in 1992 by Pascal Lissouba. But this very rare example of peaceful alternation in Central Africa ended in 1997 with the return to power of Denis Sassou Nguesso, after a civil war with the forces of Pascal Lissouba. In 2015, the head of state broke the constitutional lock that limited the number of presidential terms to two.
For years, the Congolese power has been at the heart of a resounding investigation in France. In 2017, relatives of President Sassou Nguesso were indicted there for “laundering of embezzlement of public funds” in the so-called “ill-gotten gains” case, which also targets the families in power in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Source site www.france24.com