Lawmakers in the Central African Republic chose a new speaker of parliament in a chaotic vote prompted by the controversial removal of Karim Meckassoua, who was voted out of office in the first such measure in the history of the war-torn nation.
The vote was disrupted by lawmaker Alfred Yekatom, also known as Rambo, a key figure in the anti-balaka militia. Yekatom fired two shots in the air before being led away by security forces. Two other lawmakers were also arrested before Laurent N’Gon Baba was elected to head the National Assembly.
Meckassoua quit on Friday after 98 out of 140 lawmakers voted in favor of his dismissal following a petition last week to request his removal on grounds that parliament funds were disappearing and some staff was being overpaid. While it’s not clear why Yekatom fired his gun in protest, his party said earlier that his name had been added to the petition without his consent.
Meckassoua has called on the government to remain loyal to former colonial ruler France, which deployed a military force in 2013 after the United Nations raised concerns about widespread sectarian fighting and potential mass killings. Under President Faustin-Archange Touadera, Russia has been expanding its influence in the country by sending weapons and civilian and military instructors, and obtaining at least one mining concession.