KINSHASA (Reuters) - The president of Democratic Republic of Congo told foreign nations on Monday to respect his country’s sovereignty after several urged him to comply with the constitution and not to run for re-election.
Though Joseph Kabila has yet to publicly declare his intentions, Congo is rife with speculation that he is looking for ways to remain in charge of the vast, mineral-rich nation after his second elected five-year term in office ends in 2016.
“We are always open to the opinions, advice and suggestions of our partners, but never to injunctions,” Kabila said during a rare public speech before a joint session of parliament.
Kabila came to power in 2001 when his father, Laurent, was assassinated in the middle of a conflict that sucked in regional armies are killed millions of Congolese.
He steered Congo to post-war elections in 2006 and won re-election in 2011, although the second vote was marred by complaints of widespread irregularities. Congo’s constitution currently limits presidents to two elected terms in office.
Senior U.S. officials have already publicly called on Kabila not to alter the constitution in order to hold onto power.
During a summit of French-speaking countries last month, France’s President Francois Hollande more broadly cautioned leaders facing constitutional term limits to learn from the example of Burkina Faso.
Mass protests forced Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore to step down and flee the country after he tried to push through constitutional changes to extend his 27-year rule.
Congolese opposition leaders have managed to draw thousands of protesters to marches calling for Kabila to step down in 2016.
In his speech on Monday, Kabila criticized what he said was the “systematic tendency” among some of his countrymen to look abroad for assistance to settle domestic political differences.
“There is no crisis in DRC, and even were we to have one we would sit down together around a table to negotiate,” he said.
Reporting by Richard Ngapi; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Gareth Jones