A row has erupted in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over plans to bury historic opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi, who passed away just over a week ago in Belgium, where he was receiving medical treatment.
Tshisekedi, 84, was poised to take the top post in a transitional council agreed on 31 December 2016 under a power-sharing deal to pave the way for the first peaceful transition of power in the country.
Following his death, tributes flooded in for the most prominent advocates of democracy, who is extremely popular in DRC. A mass was held in Brussels's Basilique du Sacré-cœur on Thursday (9 February) in his honour.
But plans to return Tshisekedi's body to the Congolese capital Kinshasa for a grand national funeral and burial arrangements are causing such a stir in his homeland.
The government promised to let the politician's casket lie in state in parliament and offered to pay for former colleagues to travel to Belgium to collect his body, according to AFP news agency.
Members of Tshisekedi's Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) party rejected the government's proposal. They said the government should agree to build a mausoleum for the late politician in the centre of Kinshasa and that "all costs related to the funeral" be paid by the future government of national unity whose formation has been agreed in the New Year's deal, but is yet to take office.
The UDPS insisted the funerals would only take place once the new government, in which the party is supposed to be participating, is formed.
Congo's powerful Catholic church (CENCO), which brokered and is overseeing the implementation of the transition deal, said the new government cannot be agreed on until after Tshisekedi is buried.
The government in place replied by saying it may be able to build the mausoleum, but not in the heart of Kinshasa.
After a three-day funeral wake, Tshisekedi's coffin was this week in the Belgium capital put on display for supporters to pay a final tribute to "Tshishi", as his supporters called him.