Congolese vote over third-term limit

Congo-Brazzaville is holding a referendum on constitutional changes that would allow President Denis Sassou Nguesso to stand for a third term.

Opposition leaders have called for a boycott after a number of protesters died in clashes with security forces.

Under the current constitution, the president cannot seek re-election because he is over the age of 70 and has already served two terms.

President Sassou Nguesso first came to power in 1979.

He is now coming to the end of his second seven-year term. He won the last election in 2009 with nearly 79 per cent of the vote in a poll boycotted by half the opposition candidates.

Tens of thousands of people took part in a peaceful demonstration against the referendum in September.

Four people died on Tuesday, when security forces dispersed further protests in the capital Brazzaville and the economic capital Pointe-Noire.

Protesters told the BBC the security forces used live ammunition and that army helicopters were deployed. Several activists and opposition leaders reported arrests and intimidation.

The outcome of Sunday’s vote and the Congolese people’s response to it will be watched closely in the region, as presidents in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda are also expected to try to run for third terms in forthcoming elections, the BBC’s Maud Jullien reports.

–BBC

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