Congo leader claims 'interference' amid vote delay tension

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KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Congo's president on Tuesday vowed to protect his country's sovereignty and denounced "any interference" as the country experiences tensions brought on by a decision to delay the next election.

In his annual state of the nation address, President Joseph Kabila accused unnamed foreign entities of manipulating the country's youth. He did not provide details.

"This gives me the opportunity to again denounce any interference in the affairs of our country," Kabila said.

Kabila's second term in office expires next month, but Congo's courts have ruled that the election of a new president can be delayed and that Kabila can stay in power until a new leader is chosen.

A deal reached last month calls for the vote to be held in April 2018, though the largest opposition party rejected it. On Monday the prime minister resigned as part of the deal.

Anger over the delay has sparked violence including street clashes in September that killed dozens.

Kabila has not revealed his plans, but he raised the prospect of amending the constitution to allow for a third presidential term when speaking over the weekend with a visiting delegation from the U.N. Security Council, according to Twitter messages posted by Stephen Hickey, political counselor for the U.K.'s mission to the U.N. Hickey called the remark "very concerning."

Government spokesman Lambert Mende on Monday said a third term was not being considered but added that Congolese voters could opt to change the constitution "in three, four or five years." On Tuesday, Kabila reiterated past statements that the constitution would be "respected."

Opposition lawmaker Delly Sesanga responded to Tuesday's speech by saying the president's respect for the constitution would be evident "not in a speech but in his actions."

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