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Brazzaville Protests President's Attempt to Extend Rule

FILE - Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso speaks during a news conference.
FILE - Congo's President Denis Sassou Nguesso speaks during a news conference.

More protests were reported Wednesday in Brazzaville, the capital of Republic of Congo, after clashes between opposition supporters and security forces left several dead on Tuesday. The opposition is protesting a constitutional referendum that would pave the way for longtime President Denis Sassou Nguessou to extend his rule.

Reports said several dozen youths tried to put up road blocks on an avenue near the airport Wednesday, and that police responded by firing tear gas.

A group of protesters also gathered outside a police station in the Makelele district, prompting the army to send troops there.

But elsewhere a tense calm seemed to have been restored after Tuesday’s violence.

An activist with a human rights association in Brazzaville, Loamba Moke, told VOA at midday Wednesday that he had not heard any gunshots but the capital’s streets were less busy than usual.

He said people are cautious about going out, and a lot of people have not gone to work and are staying at home, while the police are at all the main traffic junctions.

Call for restraint

Amnesty International has called for the security forces to refrain from using excessive force against protesters.

Amnesty researcher Ilaria Allegrozzi said according to Amnesty’s sources, five people have died in the violence including two at the coastal city, Pointe Noire, and others were wounded. She adds that the demonstrations started at Pointe Noire on Saturday and protests spread to all the main towns in the country.

The violence on Tuesday broke out after the government banned an opposition rally against Sunday's constitutional referendum.

Congolese voters are being asked to abolish a two-term limit for presidents and an age restriction that bars candidates over age 70 from running for the office.

Removing those restrictions would allow N'guesso, who has ruled the country more than 30 years, to continue as president.