Former Republic of Congo presidential security affairs adviser Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko has joined those seeking to unseat the long-serving President Denis Sassou Nguesso.
General Mokoko said his joining the race was informed by a strong desire by the Congolese to take charge of their destiny.
The former security chief will be standing as an independent candidate in the March 20 election.
“I think the time has come for me to be the voice of the voiceless,” he told Le Monde Afrique on Monday.
“Times are hard and the political situation in Congo keeps getting worse. We need to listen to the Congolese who want to take their destiny into their hands.
‘‘Denis Sassou Nguesso has to listen and bow out of the race,” Le Monde Afrique quoted Gen Mokoko as saying. President Nguesso, the flag-bearer for the ruling Parti congolais du travail (PCT) (Congolese Party of Labour), has been in power for nearly 32 years, becoming one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.
The President, who founded PCT in 1969, last year succeeded in amending the Congo constitution to allow him seek a third term in office.
Gen Mokoko was one of the prominent voices that opposed President Nguesso’s move, sending a clear signal about his political ambitions.
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.
He was appointed the president’s peace and security affairs adviser in 2005, a post he later abandoned, apparently to prepare the ground for his future political role.
Gen Mokoko, who was expected to return to Brazzaville Tuesday, warned that the credibility of the Congolese poll should be safeguarded to avert a popular uprising.
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.
MS BANDOU ASSASINATED
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.
The 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)
He has promised to focus on “national unity through values of solidarity and social justice; fight against poverty; protection of all Congolese people, observance of the impartial state authority and fight against all forms of injustice and nepotism”.
UPADS boycotted the 2002 and 2009 presidential elections.
Mr Andre Okombi Salissa, who once served as minister under President Nguesso, will contest the presidency on the Convention for Action, Democracy and Development party ticket. Others contenders include the independent candidate, Mr Joseph Kignoumbi Kia Mboungou, and Mr Anguios Nganguia Engambe of the Action Party for the Republic.