* Church warns of turmoil if term limits modified
* Statement tells Congolese to oppose any change
KINSHASA, July 2, The influential Roman Catholic
Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo urged President
Joseph Kabila on Tuesday to respect constitutional terms limits
and not seek reelection in the 2016 presidential election.
Speculation has been rife that Kabila will seek to modify
the constitution, which limits a president to two consecutive
five-year terms, but he has not said whether he will run.
The Congo Catholic bishops conference (CENCO) warned him
that any attempt to change the constitution and remain in power
could destabilize the mineral-rich nation which is still
recovering from decades of political turmoil.
"To seek to violate these provisions would set a dangerous
precedent on the long road to peace (and) national unity," read
a CENCO statement published a day after Congo's fifty-fourth
independence anniversary celebrations.
The message comes less than a month after international
envoys from the United States, European Union, African Union and
United Nations also urged Kabila to respect his constitutional
obligations and to publish an elections timetable.
Catholics make up about half of Congo's population. In the
absence of a coherent political opposition, the Church has been
one of Kabila's more vocal and influential critics, especially
following reports of ballot stuffing and voter intimidation
during his 2011 election victory.
In their statement, the bishops urged Congolese to "be
vigilant in opposing by all legal and peaceful means any attempt
to modify the locked articles," referring to constitutional
provisions that cannot be changed.
Having won elections in 2006 and 2011, Kabila's final
mandate expires in late 2016, but his political opponents fear
he will seek to change article 220, which bans any change to the
article setting out term limits.
CENCO also urged the government to provide the necessary
financial and material resources to ensure that elections take
place within the time-frame provided by the constitution, which
would mean presidential elections no later than December 2016.
Lambert Mende, Congo's government spokesman, said after the
warning by the international envoys that an electoral calendar
would be decided upon within the deadlines set by the
(Reporting by Peter Jones; Editing by Bate Felix and Tom