Influential bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday urged President Joseph Kabila to pledge he will not seek a third term in office in order to ease fears of unrest.
Roman Catholic bishops last year helped broker a deal under which elections for a new president would be held in 2017.
However, the ballot has been delayed, with the country's electoral commission blaming logistical problems.
Under international pressure, the mineral-rich but chronically poor and politically unstable country has now scheduled the vote for December 23, 2018.
A bloody crackdown
The bishops, after holding an extraordinary meeting on DRC's crisis, called on President Kabila "to reassure public opinion" that he will not be a candidate "to his own succession," they said in statement.
His prolonged rule has already led to street protests and a bloody crackdown.
"It is essential, on the grounds of (demonstrating) sincere political will, to reassure the Congolese people and international partners by providing guarantees that elections will effectively be held," they warned.
In power since 2001, President Kabila's second elected mandate ended in December 2016, according to the constitution, which bars presidents from seeking a third term.
However, he is allowed to remain in office until a successor is elected, according to a court ruling.