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Congo trapped in extreme poverty as Sassou rules lavishly with last month’s controversial win

Denis Sassou Nguesoo, 77, has been in power for 36 years, and last month’s presidential elections in Congo-Brazzaville brought no surprises. Sassou sealed in 88% of the votes amid widespread allegations of ballot stuffing and other voting irregularities. His rival who called for “vote for change” died of Covid-19 on the very day of voting.

Another voting dispute and question remains if the African Union, the EU, UK and US would choose to turn a blind eye to the situation while Congolese people are battling with extreme poverty.

As Sassou celebrated his victory amid trusted henchmen, he gave a rather short victory speeches, “By this vote, the people in their majority responded and said that we had the capacity to bounce back, to recover our economy, and to move towards development.”

Sassou has already been in power for 36 years ruling this oil-rich African country. With the latest win, Sassou will be in power till 2026, making him in power longer than Joseph Stalin and Central African Republic’s dictator Jean-Bédel Bokassa altogether.

During campaigning in 2021 for election, Sassou ordered complete internet shutdown for around one week, including the election day.

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Freedom Watchdog, the democracy watchdog that scores countries on their civic and political freedoms, has listed Congo as “not free” under Sassou. The UN’s Human Development Index has positioned Congo at 149 out of 189, two points above war-torn Syria. But Congo is also sixth biggest oil producer in Africa that earns it huge revenues. Under Sassou’s rule Congo is ironically poor with around half of its population under poverty line. Country’s economy too is heinously stagnant. Civil servants go for months together without wages and pensions.

Sassou is largely a warlord who took over the powers of Congo through force and reinstated himself as leader after overthrowing democratically elected leader Pascal Lissouba. The civil war that was ignited following it left country in shambles with thousands dead. Congo still has that open wound gaping in vulnerability, and the leader at its centre can do anything to remain in power.