POLICE patrolled the streets in Republic of Congo’s capital, Brazzaville, on Tuesday after the government banned opposition protests against a referendum on whether to amend the constitution to allow President Denis Sassou-Nguesso to run for a third term.
Interior Minister Raymond Mboulou also announced the ban.
Opposition groups are campaigning against Sassou-Nguesso’s plan to change the constitution, which would allow him to run for a third elected seven-year term next year. The oil-producing nation will vote on the changes in an October 25 referendum.
Earlier, communications had been cut in the capital Brazzaville on Tuesday, just hours ahead of the planned rally.
Groups of youths set fire to tyres in several parts of the city, sending plumes of black smoke into the sky, an AFP correspondent said.
Mobile Internet services, text messaging and French radio RFI’s signal were all cut, the correspondent said.
Many shops, schools and public services also remained closed and the Boulevard des Armees—where opposition leaders have called for supporters to join the afternoon rally—was deserted.
Sassou-Nguesso has already had three decades in power.
The opposition has branded the move a “constitutional coup d’etat” and the international community has also voiced its concern.
The constitution currently bars the 72-year-old from running again as there is an age limit of 70 as well as a maximum of two terms.
Tens of thousands of the president’s supporters staged a rally on Saturday to back the constitutional changes.
The turnout dwarfed the size of an anti-government demonstration late last month, when several thousand people poured onto the capital’s streets to protest against the president’s plan to cling to power.
They had rallied under the cry “Sassoufit”, a pun on the French expression for “that’s enough”.