Republic of Congo opposition parties called on the population Wednesday to resist attempts at constitutional reform that could pave the way for President Denis Sassou Nguesso to seek a third term in next year's presidential election.
The country's opposition parties and some civil society groups convened an alternative meeting in the capital after boycotting a government-sponsored forum earlier this month that opened the possibility for Sassou Nguesso, 71, to seek another term.
Sassou Nguesso, who has ruled oil-producing Congo for a total of 31 years during two separate periods in office, is banned by the Constitution from seeking another term. He has not said whether he plans to run, but his party and supporters have pushed for constitutional reforms, which the opposition argues is a ploy to enable him to run.
"We, the participants of the alternative national dialogue on the respect of constitutional order and democratic political change in 2016, call on the Congolese people to resist and defend the Constitution if it were to be violated," a statement from the gathering said.
Opposition to long-ruling African leaders trying to extend their reign has triggered protests in several countries in the continent in recent months.
During a speech Tuesday at the African Union in Ethiopia, President Barack Obama admonished African leaders who are trying to change constitutional term limits, warning that they threaten democracy on the continent.