Police in the Republic of Congo fired tear gas Tuesday to break up protests against a constitutional referendum aimed at keeping President Denis Sassou N’guesso in power.
The protesters burned tires and put up barricades on streets of the capital, Brazzaville, while phone and internet services were reported to be out in much of the city.
Congo votes Sunday on proposed reforms that would abolish the constitution’s two-term limit for presidents and the age limit of 70 for presidential candidates.
Without the changes, Sassou N’guesso, who has ruled Congo for all but five of the last 36 years, would not be able to serve past the end of his current term next year.
He announced plans for the referendum last month, setting off protests that brought thousands of people to demonstrate in Brazzaville.
Sassou N’guesso first seized power in a 1979 coup, then lost it in a 1992 election. He retook power in 1997 in a bloody civil war, and won elections in 2002 and 2009 in votes that were boycotted by most of the opposition.
Sassou N’guesso is one of several African leaders who have sparked controversy by seeking constitutional changes to extend their time in office.