UN appeals for calm in DR Congo after parliament clashes

The violence followed months of tension over the fragile coalition between President Felix Tshisekedi, who took over in January 2019 after Joseph Kabila's 18-year rule, and his predecessor's party, which holds a parliamentary majority.

Congolese policemen are seen outside the Parliament in Kinshasa on 8 December 2020. The police were deployed Tuesday in the Parliament of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Kinshasa, a seat for two days of a pitched battle between the supporters of President Félix Tshisekedi and those of the parliamentary majority loyal to his predecessor Joseph Kabila. Picture: AFP

KINSHASA - The United Nations (UN) on Wednesday hit out at violence that erupted in DR Congo's parliament, pitting backers of President Felix Tshisekedi against supporters of his predecessor Joseph Kabila.

Police were sent in to end the clashes on Tuesday, sparked by a months-long tussle over power-sharing.

The UN's representative to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Leila Zerrougui, said "the violent incidents... constitute unacceptable harm to the state of law and Congolese institutions."

She called on all parties and their supporters to show calm and restraint.

An enduring crisis "could have serious repercussions on the country's economic and security situation," she warned.

Legislators with their supporters holed up in two camps on the ground floor and first floor of the Palace of the People, the vast parliamentary building in Kinshasa.

Objects were hurled from the first floor and rival groups brawled on the staircase before the arrival of police brought matters under control, AFP reporters saw. At least three people were injured.

On Monday, pro-Tshisekedi lawmakers trashed the podium of the National Assembly plenary room.

The violence followed months of tension over the fragile coalition between Tshisekedi, who took over in January 2019 after Kabila's 18-year rule, and his predecessor's party, which holds a parliamentary majority.

On Sunday, Tshisekedi, stymied in his quest to enact reforms, said he planned to look for a new coalition in the National Assembly.

If one failed to emerge, he would consider dissolving parliament and holding fresh elections, he said.

The pro-Kabila Common Front for the Congo (FCC), which holds more than 300 out of the 500 seats, reacted furiously, accusing Tshisekedi of breaching the constitution.

On Tuesday, Tshisekedi supporters formally requested the removal of the assembly's pro-Kabila speaker, Jeanine Mabunda, and other members.

Their petition will be heard in a plenary session on Thursday.

The US ambassador in Kinshasa, Mike Hammer, issued a tweet supporting the need for reform, but also called on "all actors to take this opportunity and refrain from violence."

An appeal for calm and resolution of disputes through political channels was also made jointly by Britain, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and Switzerland, as well as the US.

The DRC, a sprawling nation the size of continental western Europe, has a long history of instability.

The handover of power from Kabila to Tshisekedi marked the country's first peaceful transition since independence from Belgium in 1960.

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