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CAR Lawmakers Propose Presidential Term Limit Removal

FILE: Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera delivers his speech during his inaugural ceremony in Bangui Tuesday March 30, 2021. Touadera was sworn in for a second term amid mounting threats to his presidency.

Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadera's allies are pushing proposed constitutional changes that would let him keep running for office, prompting protests from the opposition.

Backers of the plan to remove Central African Republic's presidential term limits insist the move was meant to bring the country into line with many of its neighbors - not a ploy to keep 65-year-old Touadera in power.

The amendments, introduced in parliament on Thursday, would alter a clause which says presidents can only run twice.

Brice Kevin Kakpayen, the head of parliament's commission on institutions and democracy, told reporters "In no other constitution among countries in the sub-region are there dispositions limiting the number of presidential terms."

Kakpayen did not set forth which countries he included in the "sub-region." There are no term limits in Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon - though the Democratic Republic of Congo next door constitutionally prevents "presidents for life."

Crépin Mboli Goumba, president of the opposition Patrie party, states he and others not in the ruling circle say they're not buying this proposal. He said his members would be "intransigent" in seeking to block it.

Several African presidents, including in Rwanda, Congo Republic, Ivory Coast and Guinea, have pushed through constitutional and other legal changes in recent years enabling them to stay in the top seat.

Activists and watchdog groups say this trend undermines faith in democracy and has contributed to the spate of military coups in West African countries over the past two years.

Touadera was first elected in 2016 following a civil war unleashed by the overthrow three years earlier of former president Francois Bozize. He was re-elected in 2020 amid an offensive by rebel groups that briefly threatened the capital Bangui. The next vote is due in 2025.

Meanwhile, the Central African Republic has seen the arrival and operations of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group, which some observers assert is meant to bolster Touadera's ability to remain in power amid ongoing insurgency.

The presidency did not respond to a request for comment on the proposed changes on Friday.