On Sunday, the Republic of Congo will hold its second presidential
election since the civil war, amid concerns that the vote could unleash
a new round of civil unrest and conflict in the country.
This Sunday, incumbent president Denis Sassou-Nguesso faces 12 challengers in his run for a second seven-year term.
of mid-June, there were 17 candidates, but four have since been
disqualified by the Constitutional Court, including main opposition
candidate, Ange Edouard Poungui. The former prime minister was rejected
because he had not continuously resided in the country for the past two
years, as required by law. He has said the decision was politically
Mr. Sasso-Nguesso has been president all but five
years in the last three decades. He first took power in a 1979 coup
before losing in a multiparty election in 1992. He seized power again
in 1997 and won a landslide victory in the 2002 presidential elections
from which key rivals were either banned or withdrew.
In the run
up to this election, opposition members have accused the National
Elections Organization Committee of bias and demanded its replacement.
This is the same electoral committee that organized the country's 2007
parliamentary elections and 2008 local elections, which were denounced
for fraud by observers from the African Union.
candidates and one independent continue to call for Sunday's voting day
to be moved because of concerns about the poll's organization,
particularly with regards to voter records. The government says the
vote will proceed as planned.
Previous elections have opened the
door to violence and instability in the Republic of Congo, and for many
Congolese those memories are simply too fresh. Bracing for Sunday's
vote, some are setting money aside or leaving the capital Brazzaville
altogether, where opposition candidates organized protests and a strike
earlier this week.
In 1993, disputed parliamentary elections
spiraled into bloody, ethnic-based fighting between pro-government
forces and the opposition. Tensions flared up again in 1997, also an
election year, eventually exploding into a full-scale civil war that
killed thousands and displaced about a quarter of the population.
National Security Council has sought to reassure the population. It
says it plans to deploy 17,000 security staff members to protect
polling stations, election rallies and candidates, including the
The former French colony is one of
Sub-Saharan Africa's main oil producers, though most of its population
of four million people live in poverty.
If no candidate wins an outright majority Sunday, there will a second round of voting on a date yet to be announced.