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Lawmakers throw buckets and chairs in Congo parliament brawl

KINSHASA, Dec 8 (Reuters) - Congo’s parliament descended into chaos on Tuesday as rival political groups flung chairs and buckets in a brawl that laid bare the tensions caused by President Felix Tshisekedi’s move to end an alliance with his predecessor, Joseph Kabila.

Tshisekedi announced on Sunday he planned to disband his governing coalition with allies of Kabila, while Kabila’s side said that would be illegal.

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.

Tuesday’s fight broke out in the main hall of the parliament building between lawmakers and supporters from the two camps, one of whom appeared to be wielding a machete.

Tshisekedi’s supporters, some in suits and stylish shoes, hurled chairs, wooden batons and plastic buckets up a staircase toward Kabila partisans who launched the objects back, two Reuters witnesses said.

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

The two camps have a long history of bad blood. Tshisekedi and his late father were longtime opponents of Kabila, who governed from 2001 to January 2019.

Tshisekedi agreed to the coalition after his victory in the disputed 2018 election, in which he defeated Kabila’s chosen successor but Kabila allies won majorities in parliament, entitling them to most cabinet posts.

Frustrated by his inability to push through his agenda, Tshisekedi said on Sunday that he would try to form a new majority in parliament and, if unsuccessful, would call for new parliamentary elections.

Kabila, who stepped down last year after bowing to domestic and international pressure not to seek a third elected term, is eligible to run again in 2023. (Reporting by Stanis Bujakera and Benoit Nyemba; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Hereward Holland and Alexandra Hudson)

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