Republic of Congo opposition calls for peaceful protests

Republic of Congo opposition parties urge supporters to peacefully protest against President Nguesso's re-election

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Supporters of Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas gather at their party headquarters in Brazzaville on March 23, 2016.

Five opposition candidates defeated in the Republic of Congo’s recent presidential election called on their supporters to protest through "peaceful" and legal actions against the re-election of President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

President Nguesso was declared the winner of the March 20 elections conducted under a telecommunications and media blackout, extending his 32 years in power. The opposition has claimed "massive fraud" took place in the elections.

The opposition candidates called for a first post-election strike on March 29 after the Easter holiday weekend.

They also called for a repeat of the "ville morte" (dead city) national strikes in which some Congolese have participated in recent months to protest Sassou Nguesso's controversial bid for a third term.

The rallying call was signed by runner-up Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas who received more than 15 percent of votes cast, third-place candidate Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko who polled nearly 14 percent, and candidates Claudine Munari, Andre Okombi Salissa and Pascal Tsaty Mabiala, according to Agence France Presse.

In their statement, they also described the contested circumstances of last week's election in which Sassou Nguesso was named the winner with 60 percent of the votes just hours after the polls closed as "an abuse of power."

"We urge the Congolese people to fully exercise their sovereignty over a democratic victory through elections recognised by law: dead cities and other strikes, meetings and peaceful marches, until the verdict of the ballot boxes is respected," they wrote.

International bodies including the European Union - which refused to send observers - criticised the election, saying conditions had not been met for a transparent and democratic vote. 

From Tuesday onwards the Republic of Congo's Interior Ministry will deposit the official election results at the Constitutional Court which has 15 days to validate them and to hear challenges from the opposition.

President Sassou Nguesso came into office in 1979 to 1992 and returned to power in 1997 following a civil war. He won two successive terms in 2002 and 2009, but both elections were contested by opposition parties.

Republic of Congo recorded growth of five percent over the five years prior to 2014 but the vast majority of the country's population live in poverty.