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Republic of the Congo: Protesters, police clash over president's bid for third term

Opposition parties are protesting a referendum aimed at changing constitutional provisions that cap the amount of terms and age at which a president may hold office.

By Fred Lambert
President of the Republic of Congo Denis Sassou Nguesso sits in the Oval Office of the White House on June 5, 2006. On Oct. 20, 2015, clashes erupted in the Congolese capital between security forces and demonstrators protesting an upcoming referendum that could change the constitution to allow Sassou Nguesso, 71, to run for a third term. POOL photo by Evan F. Sisley/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/31b773b502d42c4bfab33955064e6e34/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
President of the Republic of Congo Denis Sassou Nguesso sits in the Oval Office of the White House on June 5, 2006. On Oct. 20, 2015, clashes erupted in the Congolese capital between security forces and demonstrators protesting an upcoming referendum that could change the constitution to allow Sassou Nguesso, 71, to run for a third term. POOL photo by Evan F. Sisley/UPI | License Photo

BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of the Congo, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Police clashed with demonstrators in the Republic of the Congo Tuesday during protests against an upcoming referendum that may allow the president to serve more than two terms.

The BBC reports the vote, scheduled for Oct. 25, is aimed at making changes to the constitution that would eliminate caps on age and the amount of terms a president can serve -- allowing President Denis Sassou Nguesso, 71, to run for office a third time during elections next year.

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Witnesses say Internet and texting services have been cut ahead of the Sunday vote, and dozens have been injured in clashes between police and an opposition coalition that formed for a rally in Brazzaville.

Xinhua news agency quoted a statement by the Congolese government as saying "Tuesday Oct. 20, 2015 remains an ordinary working day for both the public and private sectors," despite accounts of police firing warning shots and tear gas at demonstrators burning tire barricades in the center of the capital.

The statement urged workers and residents to proceed with normal activities, noting that "necessary measures had been taken to guarantee their safety."

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The Republic of the Congo's 2002 constitution prevents candidates over 70 years of age from running and limits the president's time in office to two seven-year terms.

One of Africa's longest-serving leaders, Sassou Nguesso, ruled the country from 1979 to 1992. He returned as president in 1997 after winning a four-month civil war that killed tens of thousands of people.

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