By: AFP Press
Police deployed in DR Congo’s parliament on Tuesday on the second day of clashes sparked by a crisis between President Felix Tshisekedi and supporters of his predecessor Joseph Kabila.
At least three people were hurt as rival groups, including lawmakers, brawled and hurled objects before police restored order, AFP reporters saw.
The violence in sub-Saharan Africa’s troubled giant follows a months-long crisis in the governing coalition forged by Tshisekedi and a pro-Kabila group.
On Sunday, Tshisekedi said he planned to form a new coalition in order to push through much-needed reforms.
He warned he might be forced to dissolve parliament and hold fresh elections.
Kabila’s supporters, the Common Front for the Congo (FCC), which holds more than 300 out of the 500 seats in the National Assembly, reacted furiously, accusing Tshisekedi of breaching the constitution.
After pro-Tshisekedi lawmakers on Monday trashed the assembly’s podium, the plenary room was closed, even though legislators on both sides had called for a legislative session.
Pro-Kabila MPs holed up on Tuesday on the first floor of the parliament building, a vast 1970s Chinese-built edifice called the Palace of the People, while those of Tshisekedi’s UDPS party were on the ground floor, an AFP journalist in the building said.
They were joined by supporters from both sides.
Projectiles rained down from the first floor, injuring at least one person below, and rival groups brawled on the staircase before police intervened.
Outside the building, police fired tear gas to prevent other Tshisekedi supporters from entering the building.
The tensions have sparked international alarm, reviving memories of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s long record of volatility.
Coups and warfare have bloodied the narrative of the DRC since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
The eastern provinces of the DRC remain in the grip of ruthless militias — a legacy of two regional wars in the 1990s.
The African Union called on the country’s leaders to “work resolutely and sincerely for national harmony and to preserve peace and stability.”
The UN envoy Leila Zerrougui, speaking to the Security Council, warned Monday of “serious repercussions on the (DRC’s) economic and security situation.”
Both Tshisekedi and the legislature were chosen in much-delayed elections in December 2018 that were exceptionally peaceful but also tarred by accusations of fraud.
Kabila took office in January 2001, succeeding his assassinated father, Laurent-Desire Kabila.
Still a youthful 49 years of age, he retains considerable clout through political allies and officers he appointed to the armed forces, and is also a senator for life.
The governing coalition emerged from a pact, still unpublished, between Tshisekedi and Kabila at the handover in January 2019.
But the need to share power has thwarted Tshisekedi’s long-standing pledge to enact institutional reform and combat graft.
Tensions erupted into the open in July, when he named three new justices to the top court, the Constitutional Council.
The FCC angrily protested and boycotted the judges’ swearing-in in October.
Two days later, Tshisekedi revealed the scale of discord with the FCC-dominated government.
Issues included national security, the management of state assets, the independence of the judiciary and the organisation of elections.
The following month, he embarked on three weeks of consultations with various parties and political figures, seeking “the sacred union of the nation”, in his office’s words.
These talks culminated in Sunday’s announcement of the search for a new government lineup, and the threat to dissolve parliament.