The former chief of staff of Republic of Congo's army has announced he will be running as a candidate in the March 20 presidential election.

Gen. Jean Marie Michel Mokoko, 69, made the announcement Saturday, saying he is taking the side of the people. He said the country needs a new political order and asked residents to join him to strengthen ethical values.

Mokoko will face off with President Denis Sassou N'Guesso, who first ruled the Central African country from 1979 to 1992, when he lost an election. He returned to power in 1997.

Voters approved revisions to the constitution's term and age limits in October to allow Sassou N'Guesso to run again. The opposition opposed the referendum.

Republic of Congo is often overshadowed by neighboring Congo.