A parliament brawl broke out in the Democratic Republic of Congo Monday with ministers overturning desks and throwing chairs after President Felix Tshisekedi moved to scrap the ruling coalition.
Tshisekedi announced on Sunday he planned to form a new coalition, in which ministers loyal to his predecessor Joseph Kabila command more than 300 seats in the 500-member parliament.
He said he may have to dissolve parliament and hold a fresh election if he could not form a new coalition.
“The present majority has crumbled and a new majority is required,” he said, adding that if he failed to form a new coalition, fresh elections would be the solution “using the constitutional prerogatives that have been invested in me to come back to you, a sovereign people, and ask for a majority”.
In 2019 Tshisekedi took over from Joseph Kabila, who was in office for 18 years. But he need to forge a coalition with the pro-Kabila FCC, which has prevented much-needed reform.
In October, Tshisekedi revealed there had been discord over major issues with the FCC-dominated government.
These included national security, the management of state assets, the independence of the judiciary and the organisation of elections.
Parliament said the plenary session had been deferred to another date, denouncing the “destruction” of furniture and “the presence of armed bodyguards inside the assembly.”
Tshisekedi meanwhile held emergency talks with pro-Kabila Prime Minister Sylvestre Ilunga on Monday afternoon.
The FCC said on Monday that Tshisekedi’s declaration was “a flagrant and intentional breach of the constitution”.
It said it would ask Kabila to give “his version of events”, and asked the “people to remain mobilised against an attempt to hijack its will freely expressed at the ballot box”.
Last week, the FCC accused Tshisekedi supporters of trying to bribe deputies to switch parties. The president’s supporters then sought the resignation of the pro-Kabila speaker of the lower house.
The growing tensions have sparked international alarm with the African Union calling on the country’s leaders to “work resolutely and sincerely for national harmony and to preserve peace and stability”.