The President of Congo (Brazzaville), Denis Sassou Nguesso, officially launched his re-election campaign in early June at a mammoth rally in the capital, Brazzaville, attended by over 400,000 roaring supporters.
It was a happy day for the president as he got the biggest political boost ever when four historic and heavyweight opposition figures--Jacques-Joachim Yhombi Opango, Bernard Kolelas, David Charles Ganao, and the intellectual Theophile Obenga--defected to his side and openly endorsed his candidature to the delight of the crowd, in the process depleting the opposition front.
President Nguesso declared his candidature in three languages: "A/a ko Ndima zala candidate" he told the cheering crowd in Lingala, "Mu me Ndima ku vanda candidate" (in Kikongo) and finally in French. The crowd roared in support. Nearly one in three Brazzavillois (over 400,000 people) attended the rally, according to the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Thierry Mougalla, who spoke on behalf of the organising committee of the event.
The huge crowd of supporters who thronged the old Boulevard des Armees chanted slogans in praise of the president. "Mfumu na Biso" (our leader, in Kikongo), "Papa ya kimia" (father of peace, in Lingala) and "Papa Dengues" (a contraction of the family name of the president). They wore T-shirts with slogans, nicknames, banners, the image of the president strewn all over them, and enjoyed the music of the best Congolese artists.
The historic figures
The defection of Opango, Kolelas, Ganao and Obenga to the president's side has really weakened the foundations of the opposition. Opango was the president of the country from 1977 to 1979 and prime minister under President Pascal Lissouba from June 1993 to August 1996. Ganao was prime minister under Lissouba from 1996 to 1997. Kolelas took over from Ganao and served as prime minister under Lissouba in 1997, until the fall of the government later that year. They unanimously declared their support for the president in plain view of the happy crowd.
In fact, Bernard Kolelas was not at the meeting himself, but he sent word through his son, Brice Parfait Kolelas, the current minister of fisheries, who read his father's declaration to the crowd:
"Before you the president who is younger [than me], before the militants and the people here, I, Bernard Kolelas, say this: Follow the path, let the souls and the spirits of our ancestors, mpissas of Congo (a lariterm meaning "scholars" or "famous")...