Pro-govt protesters call for constitutional change in C. Africa

Riots police stand guard as supporters of Central African Republic President demonstrate to demand a change of the constitution in order to allow the president to run for a third term, in front of national assembly in Bangui, on April 29, 2022. - Hundreds of people took part in the protest calling for a constitutional change, as current laws do not allow a third term. During reconciliation talks organised in March with the opposition, a proposal to change the constitution provoked the ire of civil society. (Photo by Barbara DEBOUT / AFP)
Riots police stand guard as supporters of Central African Republic President demonstrate to demand a change of the constitution in order to allow the president to run for a third term, in front of national assembly in Bangui, on April 29, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Hundreds of people demonstrated on Friday in front of the national assembly in Bangui, calling for a constitutional change which critics fear is a push to keep the president of the Central African Republic in power, an AFP correspondent said.

During reconciliation talks organized in March with the opposition, a proposal to change the constitution provoked the ire of civil society.

The opposition and civil society worry any change would pave the way for President Faustin Archange Touadera to run for a third term.

Current laws do not allow a third term.

The Republican Front, a group of young activists who support Toudaera, submitted a petition to the national assembly president’s chief of staff which “recommends the rewording or even revision” of an article.

The head of the Republican Front — also chief of staff to the youth and sports minister — Heritier Doneng, said the group collected more than 600,000 signatures in the country of around five million.

“We are asking for a revision to the constitution of March 30, 2016, because we realized there are many flaws and ambiguities,” Doneng told AFP.

But he did not say whether the change would allow the president to seek a third mandate.

Many protesters on Friday did not know why they were at the assembly.

“I don’t know why we’re here. Maybe we’ll have money at the end but it’s not certain. The head of my neighbourhood told me to come,” one protester told AFP, not wishing to give her name.

But another called Jean-Levy said, “I’m here for the constitutional change… so that President Touadera can serve a third time because I know he’s good for the country’s development.”

The protesters believe “they will be able to change other articles or even write a new constitution to allow a third term,” Gervais Lakosso, a civil society representative, told AFP on Friday.

Touadera was re-elected in December 2020 with over 53 percent of the vote but only a third of the electorate was able to vote due to insecurity in the country plagued by civil war since 2013.