More than 500 political and human rights leaders signed an open letter Thursday expressing their concerns that the coronavirus pandemic is threatening democracy, as authoritarian leaders use the public health crisis to advance their agenda.

“COVID-19 is what you might call a battle of narratives between authoritarian countries and democracies. The democracies are right now going through a real crisis and COVID-19 pandemic sharpens that crisis”, says Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy.

Andrea Ngombet, October 2019 at the UK Embassy in Prague

Among the signatories were Republic of the Congo presidential candidate Andrea NGOMBET; former President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria; former president Joaquim Alberto Chissano of Mozambique; and the Angola anti-corruption champion Rafael Marques de Morais.

In the Republic of the Congo, COVID-19 has already claimed its pound of flesh: Bokamba Yagouma, a prominent political figure of the 90’s social movement died due to the lack of oxygen and proper breathing device. The crisis is worsening by endemic corruption and the Republic of China involvement.

“In the Congolese crisis plan, the Sino-Congolese friendship’s hospitals occupy a central place although the feedback from the field reports tinpot hospitals without any real reanimation equipment or care structure compatible with COVID-19,” says Andréa NGOMBET

For the signatories of the open letter, authoritarians around the world see the COVID-19 crisis as a new political battleground in their fight to stigmatize democracy as feeble and reverse its dramatic gains of the past few decades.