On Tuesday, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, president of the Republic of Congo, removed two ministers who had recently opposed constitutional amendments he proposed to facilitate his candidacy for a third presidential term in 2016.
Sassou, as he is referred to in Congo, is among Africa’s longest-serving dictators and has held power almost continuously since his military appointment in 1979. After losing power in the country’s first multiparty elections in 1992, he emerged victorious in 1997—backed by Angolan troops—following a bloody civil war. He has retained power since. His push, then, to amend the constitution to extend his rule came as no surprise.
In May, Sassou launched a series of consultations on what he called “the life of the nation and the state,” which were boycotted by the majority of the opposition. Constitutional amendments on presidential candidates were a major component of these talks, which generated staunch criticism from the opposition and civil society. Sassou is seeking to remove the age ceiling for presidential candidates, currently set at 70, mandated in the 2002 constitution, and eliminate the two-term limit that would prevent him from running in 2016. Sassou is 71.