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News > World

DR Congo Cuts Internet for Second Day as Country Awaits Election Results

  • Agents of Congo's National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) count casted ballot papers after election at a polling station in Kinshasa.

    Agents of Congo's National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) count casted ballot papers after election at a polling station in Kinshasa. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 January 2019

"If the results... of the presidential results don't reflect the truth... trouble will break out across the city," said Fabrice Shweka, a Goma resident.

For the second consecutive day, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo cut internet connections and SMS services across the country as people await the results of this weekend's chaotic presidential election.

Congo: Both Opposition, Ruling Coalition Claim Victory Before Official Results 

On Monday, both the opposition and ruling coalition claimed they were due to win a turbulent election in which many Congolese were unable to vote due to an Ebola outbreak, an armed conflict, and logistical issues with voting materials.

The opposition, whose two main candidates are Felix Tshisekedi and Martin Fayulu, says the election was marred by fraud. They accused President Joseph Kabila of planning to rule from the sidelines through his preferred candidate, former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary. The government insists the election was fair.

Fayulu criticized irregularities in a statement Monday but said he was encouraged by the determination of the Congolese people to vote despite long lines and broken-down voting machines.

"I call for vigilance across the board and the general mobilization of all Congolese so that the truth of the ballot box, the sole witness to the will of the Congolese people, can reward their efforts and sacrifices," he said.

A senior adviser to President Kabila, Barnabe Kikaya bin Karubi, said that internet and SMS services had been cut to preserve public order after "fictitious results" began circulating on social media.


Congo Demands Departure of EU Ambassador Ahead of Elections

"That could lead us straight toward chaos,"he told Reuters, adding connections will remain cut until official results are published on Jan. 6.

The signal to one of the most popular news sources in Congo, Radio France Internationale (RFI), was also down, and the government withdrew the accreditation of RFI's main correspondent in Congo late Monday, claiming they aired unofficial results from the opposition.

This is not the first time RFI’s transmissions have been targeted by the government. DR Congo has one of the lowest ratings in press freedom according to Reporters Without Borders (RWB), ranking 154 of 180 in 2018. Under Kabila, at least 11 journalists were murdered with impunity.

“Radio stations that interview government opponents are often shut down or ransacked. The authorities often disconnect the Internet or block access to social networks, depriving the public of access to freely reported news and information,” RWB states on their website.

DR Congo has been due for a democratic transfer of power since President Kabila’s official mandate ended two years ago. He has been in power for 18 years,since he assumed the presidency after his father, former President Laurent Kabila, was assassinated by one of his own bodyguards in 2001.

Kabila is the fourth president of the country, which has never seen a democratic transfer of power. Any disputed outcome could lead to reruns of the violence that followed the 2006 and 2011 elections and a wider security breakdown in the more volatile eastern provinces, where the presence of an Ebola outbreak is strongest.

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