Obama urges DRCongo's Kabila to respect constitution

DR Congo leader Joseph Kabila has been in power since 2001 and is believed to be eyeing a third term (AFP Photo/Carl De Souza)

Washington (AFP) - As Congolese President Joseph Kabila appears to toy with extending his 14-year rule, US President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged him to respect the Democratic Republic of Congo's constitution.

"The president emphasized the importance of timely, credible, and peaceful elections that respect the DRC's constitution," the White House said following a phone call between the two men.

Elections are expected to take place across the sprawling central African nation in November 2016.

Kabila came to power in 2001 after the assassination of his father Laurent, and is now approaching the end of the two full terms in power permitted under the country's constitution.

Kabila's efforts to amend electoral laws to allow a third term prompted deadly protests and accusations that he is trying to hold on to power.

Opponents say that although efforts to change the law have failed, Kabila may be trying to exploit other means of staying in office.

The White House said Obama noted that "President Kabila's legacy as a leader who brought the DRC out of war and set it on a path of continued democratic progress would be consolidated by free and fair elections in 2016."

The Democratic Republic of Congo has long been a source of instability in southern and central Africa.

Wars have raged on its eastern border, as rival groups vie for precious natural resources.