Congo's 2016 runner-up launches new presidential bid

Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas last ran for the Congolese presidency in 2016
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Congolese opposition politician Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas said Monday he would again challenge President Denis Sassou Nguesso in a March election, after coming second five years ago.

Sassou Nguesso, 77, has ruled the Republic of Congo, also called Congo-Brazzaville, for more than 36 years altogether -- first from 1979-92, and again since 1997.

While Kolelas is backed by his own political party, the Union of Humanist Democrats (UDH), the country's largest opposition group, the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS) has already said it will boycott the polls.

"I want to free up some fundamental rights. I want to give hope back to the Congolese people, because our Congolese youth today is wavering," Kolelas said of the March 21 vote.

A former member of the French Communist Party (PCF), Kolelas has since drawn closer to France's far-right, anti-immigrant National Rally (RN, formerly known as the National Front).

"They're my friends, I'm not ashamed of it," he said in 2017.

Kolelas' father Bernard was briefly prime minister of Congo in 1997, during the country's civil war.

The candidate has urged his supporters to register on the electoral roll in a nationwide revision of the lists scheduled to end on February 16.

A second challenger to Sassou Nguesso, the president's former aide Albert Oniangue, also unveiled his bid Monday, saying "all the elites are helpless spectators at the shipwreck" of the country.

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