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Congolese supporters of opposition leader Kolelas mourn his death

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MARCO LONGARI/AFP or licensors

Republic of the Congo

Supporters of Congolese opposition figure Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, the main rival of incumbent Denis Sassou Nguesso in Congo-Brazzaville's presidential election, react after his death the day after the vote. 

A Paris court said a criminal probe had been opened into the cause of death.

**_"I learned this morning of Parfait's death. We are very saddened, he was a great leader, even if he was not going to be inaugurated as head of state. I'm really devastated. We are in mourning," _**expressed Chantal Malonga, a market seller.

"We are very moved today to hear of the death of candidate Guy Brice Parfait Kolélas. He was a great Congolese political leader. Everyone, especially the youth, had their eyes on him and were behind him. People, especially the Congolese people, were really hoping for change with him," said Wilfrid Raoul Matiabou, an entrepreneur.

Christian Gwemo, a voter calls for the election to be annulled;

"In principle, this election should be postponed or simply cancelled. In my humble opinion, cancel it because it is a vote that has lost credibility, that has lost all its meaning. Can you see a challenger, a candidate of this stature disappearing while we are voting? It has left everyone stunned."

Sassou Nguesso, 77, who has accumulated 36 years in power, was frontrunner in an election boycotted by the main opposition and under an internet blackout.

A close friend of his said that Kolelas had died five minutes after the plane touched down at Le Bourget airport north of Paris.

Kolelas had initially feared he had malaria, and discovered too late that it was coronavirus, the source said.

Kolelas tested positive for coronavirus on Friday afternoon, and was unable to host his closing campaign rally in Brazzaville.

On Saturday, he posted a video from his sickbed, declaring he was "battling against death".

"Rise up as one person... I'm fighting on my deathbed, you too fight for your change," he urged his supporters, saying the election was "about the future of your children".

Mayanda called on supporters of Kolelas to rally on Monday.

"We'll continue to count the ballots. He was ahead in a number of areas," he said.

Near Kolelas' southern stronghold of Pool, Wilfrid Raoul, a supporter, said he was "a great Congolese political leader. With him we hoped for change... For the time being we can't imagine who could replace him."

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