Sylvestre Ilunga, the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo protested on Sunday over the brief arrest of Justice Minister Celestin Tunda.
Ilunga said that the coalition government could resign over the issue, calling on President Felix Tshisekedi to guarantee the protection of the cabinet members.
Earlier on Saturday, the justice minister was detained by police and released following several hours of questioning by prosecutors at the court of cassation, triggering a political storm within the ruling coalition.
“This serious and unprecedented incident is likely to weaken the stability and the harmonious functioning of institutions, and to cause the resignation of the government,” the prime minister said in a statement.
Tunda had a clash with President Tshisekedi over judicial changes proposed by Tunda’s party that would give the justice ministry more control over criminal prosecutions.
Opponents of the change say it would undermine the independence of the judiciary.
The disagreement has highlighted strains in the ruling coalition between Tshisekedi and allies of his long-serving predecessor, Joseph Kabila.
“No member of the government can be prosecuted for opinions expressed during deliberations of the council of ministers,” Ilunga said referring to Friday’s meeting where Tshisekedi and Tunda reportedly quarrelled over the judicial changes.
Ilunga said the magistrates responsible for what he called Tunda’s “brutal and arbitrary arrest” should face disciplinary action.