A lawmaker fired into the air in the Central African Republic’s parliament on Monday after an altercation with a colleague as MPs were preparing to vote for a new speaker, an AFP journalist saw.
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.
He 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.
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”.
Parliament was to elect a new speaker on Monday, 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.
The former French colony’s president, Faustin-Archange Touadera, is a Christian, and observers have said that relations between him and Meckassoua have never been good.
Sporadic gunfire was heard late on Friday in the PK5 district, Bangui’s economic hub and often 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.
Since 2013, the Central African government has been in control of only a small part of its territory, with vast parts living under the control of armed groups.
The country of 4.5 million, rich in diamonds and uranium, counts among the world’s poorest.