BANGUI (Reuters) -Central African Republic's President Faustin-Archange Touadera said on Tuesday he would hold a referendum in July on his intention to change the constitution and remove term limits.
Touadera's allies proposed the change in May last year, arguing that presidential term limits were uncommon in many neighbouring countries. Critics and opposition parties held protests last year as the reform would allow Touadera to run again in 2025 for a third term.
The president installed a commission to draft the proposed changes in September. But the country's top court ruled the committee unconstitutional and annulled it.
In an address to the nation on Tuesday, Touadera said a draft of the new charter would be submitted to a referendum.
The decision to hold a referendum was made after consultations with the presidents of the Constitutional Court and the National Assembly, he added.
"To those who many have reason to fear the advent of a new constitution, I would like to reassure them," Touadera said, noting he was responding to public demands for change.
"Alternation will always be organised through free, democratic and transparent elections open to all citizens."
A presidential decree issued later on Tuesday said the referendum would start on July 15 and end on July 28.
The 66-year-old came to power in 2016 following a civil war unleashed by the overthrow of former President Francois Bozize three years earlier. He was re-elected in 2020 as an offensive by rebel groups, including some backing Bozize, briefly threatened the capital Bangui.
The proposed reform echoes constitutional and other legal changes that have allowed presidents in several other African countries - including Rwanda, Congo Republic, Ivory Coast and Guinea - to stay in office.
Touadera had previously proposed amending the constitution to allow himself and other lawmakers to remain in office if elections are delayed.
(Reporting by Judicael Yongo; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Richard Chang)