Kinshasa — The Catholic Bishops of the Democratic Republic of Congo's have called on citizens to defy any attempts by President Joseph Kabila to hold on to power beyond the end of his term next year.
"We ask the Congolese people to prove their vigilance in the spirit of article 64 (of the constitution)," said the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) in a statement signed by the Chairman, Cardinal Laurent Mosengwo Pasinya November 26.
The church has been outspoken on the subject of Kabila's future, notably condemning the government's crackdown on anti-government protests in January that left about 40 people dead.
"(This) stipulates that 'All Congolese have the duty to thwart any individual or group of individuals that takes power by force or exercises it in violation of the provisions of the present constitution," the bishops said.
Kabila, who became president in 2001 and won disputed elections in 2006 and 2011, is barred by the constitution from standing for a third term.
President Kabila's spokesman said that he intends to respect the constitution, but some of his allies have suggested delaying the presidential election by up to four years to clean up voter rolls.
Earlier this month, the church declared its support for a national dialogue to discuss the upcoming elections as long it does not delay polls. The government has said that Kabila will convene the dialogue "imminently."
Most opposition parties have said they will not participate, calling the dialogue part of a strategy to delay the election.