37 Years an Emperor; Nguesso’s Re-election Campaign in Congo-Brazzaville

On Sunday, March 21, Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo will vie for a continuation in office after an accumulated thirty-seven years in office.

77 year old Nguesso, has said he will revive the flailing economy of the oil-producing nation. The former Paratrooper who rose to prominence after a military coup in 1979, ruled the nation until 1992 just before he lost in Congo’s first multi-party election.

After a civil war in 1997 that saw thousands of people killed, he bounced back and became President again. His almost 37 years in power is one of Africa’s longest presidential reign and that has attracted the respect of the rest of the leaders on the continent. Amongst life Presidents like him, he’s known as the “Emperor”.

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Nguesso is being challenged by not less than six opposition candidates in Sunday’s election but like most African leaders of his ilk, he has the control button of the nation right beside him on the couch. He has the campaign processes of opposition within his reach and has already been tipped to continue as President.

His re-election campaign, however, hasn’t come without stiff opposition from the Catholic Church and Congo’s Civil Rights movements.

The Catholic Church’s desire to have 1000 election observers was rejected by Congo’s electoral commission, as they struggle to sway opinions in a nation, like Nigeria, where many seem to have accepted their fate.

Nguesso held his final rally on Friday amid a crowd of cheering locals who sang and danced to chants of his name. Despite his near eternal presence in Congo’s seat of power, he’s still revered by a good proportion of the 5.5million people in the country.

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Congo’s median age of 19 years means majority of the country’s nationals have spent their lives knowing one man in power, like Yoweri Museveni of Uganda.

Nguesso says his ambition is to drive the economy back to progression after an 8% fall in the GDP in 2020 following COVID-19 and the resultant crash in oil prices. The economy is expected to rise by 1% in 2021 as Nguesso seeks to continue his decades-old reign.

Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas, a former Minister is the African Emperor’s closest candidate, after winning 15% of total votes in the last Presidential elections, but his chances are as slim as they can get.

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While Sunday presents an opportunity for Congo to elect a new leader, they seem rather at ease with the old guard if the sights and sounds from Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, the nation’s biggest cities, are anything to go by.

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