A lawmaker fired into the air in the Central African Republic’s parliament on Monday after an altercation with a colleague as MPs prepared to vote for a new speaker.
Alfred Yekatom, who represents the southern M’baiki district and is a former militia leader, drew his weapon during the dispute, then fired the gun as he ran away.
Yekatom’s motive for shooting the gun, which sent MPs rushing to the exit, was not clear.
The parliament session was suspended for an hour while security forces searched every MP.
The lawmakers went on to elect an MP from western Baboua, Laurent Ngon-Baba, a former minister, in a near-unanimous vote of 112 in favour, with four blank ballots.
The vote came three days after a censure motion removed Karim Meckassoua, who represents a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood in Bangui.
After years of confrontation between Muslim and Christian groups in the majority Christian country, Meckassoua’s election in 2016 was seen as a symbol of reconciliation.
On Sunday Meckassoua said he would challenge his sacking in the courts, calling for his ouster not to be turned into a sectarian debate — while noting that 38 of the 41 deputies who voted against him were Christian.
Speaking after the vote, Ngon-Baba said: "We can no longer afford to make mistakes. We will immediately take steps, especially concerning the management of financial resources."
Suspected embezzlement was among the justifications advanced for Meckassoua’s ouster.
Observers have said that relations between President Faustin-Archange Touadera and Meckassoua have never been good.
Yekatom under UN sanctions
Yekatom is a former soldier as well as the former head of a faction of the so-called anti-Balaka militia, which emerged in largely Christian communities in 2013 to fight a mainly Muslim rebel alliance, the Seleka, who overthrew longtime leader Francois Bozize.
Today his successor Touadera can claim to control only a fraction of the country despite the deployment of one of the UN’s most ambitious peacekeeping operations, MINUSCA.
The rest is in the sway of ex-rebels and vigilante militias.
Police arrested Yekatom while he was still in the parliament building.
Moments later, more gunfire broke out as a car rammed the police barrier outside parliament.
In 2015, a UN Security Council committee slapped a travel ban and assets freeze on Yekatom for “engaging in or providing support for acts that undermine the peace, stability or security of the CAR".
Sporadic gunfire was heard late Friday in the PK5 district, Bangui’s economic hub and often the scene of violence. There was also shooting in rebel strongholds Bria and Bambari, but it was not clear whether it was linked to Meckassoua’s fate.
The country of 4.5 million, rich in diamonds and uranium, counts among the world’s poorest.
Nsanzimana Ernest ni Umwanditsi mukuru w’Ikinyamakuru Umuryango. Yatangiye gukorera iki kinyamakuru muri Nzeli 2016, afite Impamyabumenyi y’Icyiciro cya Kabiri cya Kaminuza (A0) mu Itangazamakuru n’Itumanaho yakuye muri Kaminuza y’u Rwanda Ishuri ry’ itangazamakuru n’ itumanaho