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Congo Opposition to Meet Western Envoys

The leader of the Republic of Congo’s opposition Congolese Movement for Democracy and Integral Development (MCDDI) said opposition and civil society groups would meet Thursday with envoys of the United States and the European Union to talk about the political situation in the country.

Perfect Kolelas said discussions about ending violence in Congo would be high on the agenda. He called on the international community, including the African Union, to intervene in Congo to ensure the constitution is not violated.

Kolelas’ comments came after violent clashes between police and opposition supporters left at least four people dead and many injured. The opposition youths were protesting attempts by President Denis Sassou Nguesso to use a referendum set for Sunday to change the constitution by removing age and term limits for the presidency.

“We talked with the ambassador of the United States [and] the ambassador of the European Union," Kolelas said. "They are pushing to go to a state dialogue even tomorrow; they asked us to go to a meeting in order to see if it is possible to enter a new dialogue with President Denis Sassou Nguesso and his political party.”

He said the MCDDI, opposition and civil society groups would not be deterred in their determination to ensure the constitution is not violated.

But local media quoted Pierre Ngolo, general secretary of the ruling Labor Party, as saying change is a must because the constitution, which limits the number of presidential terms to two and restricts candidates over 70 from competing, has had its day.

“We want change for the future of the country, to ensure peace and stability. … The Congolese Labor Party will not lose power in 2016,” Ngolo said.

Kolelas disagreed, saying opposition parties had officially petitioned the international community for help.

“Our main struggle is to build a true democracy in the Congo-Brazzaville, but President Denis Sassou Nguesso wants to change the constitution," he said. "[It] is not allowed to change the constitution. Therefore, people are fighting and are opposed to this changing of the constitution. ... People have died, but we are trying our best to stop all these things.”

Last year, the ruling party called for a constitutional amendment, which led to a conference on term limits removal that included 102 political parties and civil society groups.

Opposition leader Kolelas said Nguesso and his ruling party want to contravene the constitution by holding an “illegal” referendum Sunday.