President Sassou Nguesso seeks fourth term in Congo

The authorities in Congo-Brazzaville have submitted the names of eight presidential aspirants to the constitutional court for validation ahead of the March 21election.

President Denis Sassou Nguesso will face seven challengers including former Finance Minister Mathias Dzon and Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas, the son of a former prime minister.

Mr Sassou Nguesso, 77, is seeking a fourth term. He has been in power since 1979, except for a five-year period after losing elections in 1992.

Others in the presidential race are Albert Oniangue, a former aide-de-camp of Mr Sassou Nguesso, former Member of Parliament (MP) Joseph Kignoumbi Kia Mbougou, customs official Anguios Nganguia Engambe, MP Michel Mboussi Ngouari and Deve Mafoula, a 38-year-old aspirant.

The largest opposition group, the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS), has said it will boycott the polls.

The constitution was changed in a referendum in 2015 to remove term and age limits.

Mr Sassou Nguesso’s victory in 2016 was marred by violence and allegations of fraud.

Civil wars and militia conflicts have plagued the Republic of Congo, which is sometimes referred to as Congo-Brazzaville.

Nearly half the population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank, even though the Republic of Congo is one of sub-Saharan Africa’s main oil producers.

Oil is the mainstay of the economy and in recent years the country has tried to increase financial transparency in the sector.

Denis Sassou Nguesso is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, having first come to power almost four decades ago.

He was installed as president by the military in 1979 and lost his position in the country’s first multi-party elections in 1992.

He returned to power in 1997 after a brief but bloody civil war in which he was backed by Angolan troops.

He gained his latest seven-year term after elections in March 2016.

Constitutional changes to allow him to stand for another term were condemned by the opposition as a constitutional coup.

A French-trained paratrooper colonel, Mr Sassou Nguesso is seen as a pragmatist. During his first presidency in 1979-92 he loosened the country’s links with the Soviet bloc and gave French, US and other Western companies’ roles in oil exploration and production.

But he has also been dogged by corruption allegations which he denies. -BBC

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