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Referendum on a New Constitution in Republic of Congo

Press Statement Mark C. Toner Deputy Department Spokesperson Washington, DC October 6, 2015

The United States notes with concern the decision by Republic of Congo President Denis Sassou N’Guesso to hold a referendum on a new constitution that would overcome existing term limits and permit him to run again for president after the end of his term in 2016. As President Obama stated in his address at the African Union, Nelson Mandela and George Washington “forged a lasting legacy not only because of what they did in office, but because they were willing to leave office and transfer power peacefully.” President Obama underscored that, “when a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife — as we’ve seen in Burundi. And this is often just a first step down a perilous path.” We reiterate that regular, peaceful, democratic leadership transitions provide a dynamic and healthy mechanism for citizens to hold political leaders accountable for their governance and foster long-term stability. No democracy is well-served when its leader alters its constitution for personal or political gain.

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