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Dialogue, not Violence, Needed in Congo

FILE - A man holds a placard reading, "Congo is not the property of Nguesso," during a demonstration against President Denis Sassou Nguesso in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo, Sept. 27, 2015.

We call on President Sassou [Nguesso] to postpone the referendum, to defuse the current situation, and allow for dialogue and discussion.

Four people were reported killed and dozens were injured October 20th, when police opened fire on demonstrators in the Congo’s capital, Brazzaville. The protests were against a proposed 25th October constitutional referendum that would overcome immutable terms, term limits, and allow the incumbent, President Denis Sassou Nguesso, to stand for another term.

Dialogue, not Violence, Needed in Congo
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The United States strongly condemns the violence and notes with concern President Sassou Nguesso’s decision to hold the referendum.

As President Barack Obama stated in his address to 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 tried to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife – as we have seen in Burundi. And this is often just the first step down a perilous path.”

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.

U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said the United States strongly encourages “opposing sides to come together in dialogue to defuse the situation and to seek true consensus on a way to move forward without further bloodshed.”

“As before,” Mr. Kirby noted, “we believe peaceful, free, and transparent transfers of power respecting existing term limits are essential to democratic development and long-term stability. We call on President Sassou [Nguesso] to postpone the referendum, to defuse the current situation, and allow for dialogue and discussion.”