Denis Sassou Nguesso, President of the Republic of Congo is aiming to extend his decades-long hold on power in the Central African state when the country goes to the polls on Sunday.

Sassou Nguesso has been in office for 36 years and was most recently re-elected in 2016, after which the opposition was effectively sidelined and his two main rivals sentenced to 20 years’ forced labour.

The 77-year-old retired general appears favoured to win a fourth term in Sunday’s ballot. The largest opposition group, the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy, is already boycotting the ballot.

Sassou Nguesso hopes for a first-round victory over six challengers, including former minister Guy-Brice Parfait Kolelas who was runner-up in 2016.

“One shot, KO,” proclaimed his campaign posters forecasting a win for the candidate.

Sassou Nguesso has placed youth and the development of agriculture at the heart of his campaign, decrying it “shameful” that the country imports most of what it consumes despite its farming resources.

But his pitch to youth seems to have raised a mixed response in a country where most of the population of five million are people aged under 25 who have never known another president.

“Even if there is some hassle here, there’s no war like in other countries. Better to stay with Sassou who brings us peace, at least that is good,” said Mariela, a 19-year-old high-school student in the coastal city of Pointe-Noire.

“There’s no point voting,” said Francesc, a 25-year-old law student in the capital Brazzaville. “The dice are loaded in advance.”

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