Former Republic of Congo presidential security affairs adviser Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko has said that he is in the race to unseat the long-serving President Denis Sassou Nguesso.
The former security chief will be standing as an independent candidate in the March 20 election after he announced his candidacy in the capital Brazzaville at the conference centre.
The General who was the Congolese Chief of Army Staff from 1987-1993, is currently serving as a special representative of the African Union Commission in the neighbouring Central African Republic.
General Mokoko was appointed the president’s peace and security affairs adviser in 2005, a post he later abandoned to prepare for his political role.
However, it remains to be seen whether Mokoko can present a significant challenge to 72-year-old Sassou Nguesso who has ruled the oil producer for 31 of the past 36 years in two spells and is widely seen as the favourite to win the March 20 polls.
Also in the race is Ms Gilda Rosemonde Moutsara Gambou of the Free Conscience Party, the only woman to have declared her candidature so far.
Ms Gambou, 41, said time was ripe for a new generation to take over power in the Republic of Congo and she was ready to lead the change.
She would become the second woman to contest the Republic of Congo presidency after Ms Angele Bandou, a nun, ran in the 1992 and 2002 elections.
Ms Bandou was assassinated in 2004.
Gen Mokoko and Ms Gambou became the eighth and ninth candidates keen to unseat President Nguesso.
So far, at least 10 candidates have put themselves forward for the election although they have yet to be validated by the constitutional court.
Congos’ main opposition party, the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS), has chosen its first secretary, Mr Pascal Tsaty-Mabiala, as the flag-bearer.
Currently serving as an MP on the UPADS ticket, Mr Tsaty-Mabiala, 66, was once a Defence minister in the government of President Pascal Lissouba (1992-1997).
In October, president Sassou Nguesso won by more than 90 percent a referendum on
constitutional changes allowing him to seek a third consecutive mandate.