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Lawmakers throw buckets and chairs in Congo parliament brawl

Lawmakers throw buckets and chairs in Congo parliament brawl
December 8, 2020

KINSHASA (Reuters) – Congo’s parliament voted on Tuesday to authorise a motion to remove the speaker of parliament, a move that, if successful, would hand President Felix Tshisekedi a major victory in his power struggle with his predecessor, Joseph Kabila.

More than half of the body’s 500 representatives authorised a vote on the motion for Thursday, which would force out Jeannine Mabunda, an ally of Kabila, as speaker and pave the way for the formation of a pro-Tshisekedi majority.

That would mark a monumental shift in power toward Tshisekedi, who took office in January 2019 but has been handicapped by a coalition government with Kabila’s allies, who won parliamentary majorities in the same election.

By controlling a majority in parliament, Tshisekedi would be able to nominate a cabinet of his choosing after two years in which Kabila’s allies have dominated the major ministries, frustrating the president’s ability to push through his agenda.

Following weeks of consultations with political leaders and others, Tshisekedi announced on Sunday that he would try to form a new majority in parliament by winning over members of Kabila’s coalition and other, smaller parties.

Kabila’s side says Tshisekedi’s actions are illegal, and fighting broke out on Monday and Tuesday between rival supporters.

On Tuesday, Tshisekedi’s supporters, some in suits and stylish shoes, hurled chairs, wooden batons and plastic buckets up a staircase in the parliament building toward Kabila partisans who launched the objects back.

One man was carried away bleeding from the head. The police eventually dispersed the crowd with tear gas.

The standoff has raised fears of fresh instability in the Central African country whose economy has been badly rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, and whose recent history has been marked by repeated civil wars and political upheaval.

Kabila, who came to power in 2001, stepped down last year after bowing to domestic and international pressure not to seek a third elected term. He is eligible to run again in 2023.