The Republic of the Congo’s main opposition candidate to the incumbent president has died of COVID-19, hours after polls closed this weekend, according to new reports.
Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas, 61, died Sunday on a plane bringing him to France for treatment, his campaign director said, according to the BBC.
Hours earlier, in a video posted to social media, Kolélas, who had diabetes, told his supporters he was “fighting death.”
“My dear compatriots, I am in trouble,” he said in French from a private hospital in the republic’s capital, Brazzaville. “I am fighting death. However, I ask you to stand up and vote for change. I would not have fought for nothing.”
He encouraged his supporters to “rise up as one person.”
“I’m fighting on my deathbed, you too fight for your change,” he said, adding that the election was “about the future of your children.”
On Friday, Kolélas missed his final campaign event after saying a day earlier he was concerned he had malaria, according to the Associated Press.
Kolelas told supporters to “fight for change” while he fought for his life.Parfait Kolelas/Handout via Reut
But it was later determined that he had the coronavirus.
Kolélas was considered the main rival to Denis Sassou Nguesso, 77, who was anticipated to win Sunday’s vote, the Guardian reported.
He came in second to Nguesso in the 2016 election, picking up 15 percent of the vote, the outlet reported.
He was the only serious contender remaining after various withdrawn candidacies, exclusions and boycotts, according to the report.
Sassou Nguesso, 77, has been in power since 1979, except for a five-year period after he lost the 1992 election.
Kolélas, nicknamed Pako, was the fourth of a dozen children, according to the paper.
Kolelas originally thought he had malaria but it was later confirmed to be coronavirus.AFP via Getty Images
His father, who fled to Mali with his family in 1997 — when Sassou Nguesso regained power — encouraged him to enter politics.
“It was when we were in exile that my father asked me to pursue the political struggle,” Kolelas, who returned to the country in 2005 for his mother’s burial, said at a recent rally, according to the report. “He only said it to me, not the others, as we [were] 12 brothers and sisters.”