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Congo’s Sassou Nguesso, in power a total of 31 years, sacks 2 ministers opposed to his third term bid

BRAZZAVILLE (Reuters) – President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo has replaced two ministers who last month came out against constitutional changes that would pave the way for him to seek a third term in office.

President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo
President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo

The removal of civil service minister Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas and trade minister Claudine Munari was announced late on Monday. No official reasons were given.

Sassou Nguesso, 71, who has ruled oil-producing Congo for a total of 31 years in two separate spells in office, is banned by the current constitution from seeking another term.

However, last month he called a national forum to discuss reforms including raising the maximum age for presidential candidates and scrapping the two-term limit, further feeding expectations he will seek to extend his rule in polls next year.

Kolelas and Munari were not present at the forum, choosing instead to attend an alternative, opposition-organised meeting that called for resistance to the proposed changes.

Gilbert Mokoki, previously deputy transport minister, was named to replace Kolelas as civil service minister, while Kolelas’ brother Euloge Landry Kolelas, deputy mayor of the capital Brazzaville, takes over from Munari as trade minister.

A number of veteran African leaders have triggered protests with plans to extend their time in office.

During a speech at the African Union in Ethiopia last month, U.S. President Barack Obama admonished African leaders trying to change constitutional term limits, warning they threatened democracy on the continent.