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Congo presidential candidate dies of COVID-19 a day after election

The Republic of Congo, often confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a small country located in west-central Africa. Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/davidrockdesign-2595351/">David Rock Design/Pixabay</a>
The Republic of Congo, often confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a small country located in west-central Africa. Image by David Rock Design/Pixabay

March 22 (UPI) -- Republic of Congo opposition leader and presidential candidate Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas died of COVID-19 a day after the country went to the polls to choose its new leader, officials say.

Kolelas, 60, the main rival to longtime Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, had been flown to France for treatment. He died on Sunday while on a plane to France.

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In a video circulated online, Kolelas described fighting the disease but said he'd hoped to overcome the virus.

"I am having trouble," he said in the video while wearing an oxygen mask. "I am fighting against death."

Kolelas died one day after Congo's presidential election, in which he was hoping to defeat Nguesso. He finished a distant second in voting in the last election five years ago.

"I ask you to stand up. Go and vote for change," Kolelas said in the video, which was posted a day before the election. "I will not have fought for nothing. Fight for it."

Because he had diabetes, Kolelas was at higher risk of complications due to COVID-19.

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Nguesso first led the Republic of Congo from 1979 to 1992 and then again rose to power in 1997 and has been president ever since. Kolelas' father, Bernard, was briefly the country's prime minister in 1997.

The Republic of Congo is a small country in west-central Africa that is often confused with the larger Democratic Republic of Congo.

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