Legislators in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday voted to remove the National Assembly speaker, as the political rift between President Felix Tshisekedi and supporters of his predecessor Joseph Kabila deepens.
After parliament became a scene of brawls between MPS this week, they voted in favour of a petition to force out the National Assembly’s pro-Kabila speaker, Jeanine Mabunda.
The petition was launched by Tshisekedi loyalists after the president announced on Sunday that he would seek to forge another coalition within the FCC, which controls 300 of 500 seats in parliament, or would otherwise dissolve the assembly.
The coalition, formed in 2018 after Tshisekedi’s election, has prevented the president from passing much-needed reforms.
A total of 484 MPs out of 500 were present at a tense session late Thursday debating whether to oust the assembly’s speaker Mabunda, with 281 voting in favour and 200 against.
The speaker asked the assembly to reject the petition against her due to “purely technical and non-political” reasons.
But the FCC accuses Tshisekedi of breaching the constitution.
The party says Tshisekedi is plotting to establish a “dictatorial regime, in the service of personal power”.
Kabila, who is still only 49 after ruling for 18 years, retains huge clout through political allies and appointees in the military.
On Thursday Tshisekedi met with around 50 high-ranking army officials, who “reaffirmed their determination to only carry out his orders”, the presidency said on Twitter.
Tshisekedi also met with military leaders last week, the head of the elite Republican Guard ordering his troops “not to plot” against the president.
On Monday, pro-Tshisekedi MPs trashed furniture on the National Assembly’s podium, and on Tuesday, legislators on both sides brawled in the building’s lobby, prompting the police to intervene.
Tshisekedi has been verbally supported by other countries, including the United States, France and Belgium.