Wednesday, January 02, 2019

DRC Poll Hub: Internet Blackout Persists, AU Meets Main Aspirants
Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban
Africa News

Democratic Republic of Congo’s government cut internet connections and SMS services across the country for a second straight day on Tuesday as the country nervously awaited results from the weekend’s chaotic presidential election.

Both the opposition and ruling coalition said on Monday they were on track to win after a turbulent election day on Sunday in which many Congolese were unable to vote due to an Ebola outbreak, conflict and logistical problems.

Barnabe Kikaya bin Karubi, a senior adviser to President Joseph Kabila, said internet and SMS services were cut to preserve public order after “fictitious results” began circulating on social media.

“That could lead us straight toward chaos,” Kikaya told Reuters, adding the connections would remain cut until the publication of complete results on Jan. 6.

As at Tuesday evening, the African Union, AU, delegation in the country called a meeting with the main presidential aspirants and the elections commission chief at a hotel in the capital, Kinshasa.

A journalist with the June Afrique newspaper posted photos of Felix Tshisekedi and Martin Fayulu – both leading opposition coalitions arriving at the premises of Hotel Kempinski.

The elections boss, Corneille Nangaa left the meeting without any comments to the media. It is reported that the ruling party’s candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary was also invited but no reports of his participation were made.

It is not known what the agenda of the meeting was but it is most likely connected with conduct of players as they await results from the December 30, 2018 vote.

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

The various moves reflected high tensions in Congo, where the long-delayed election was meant to choose a successor to Kabila, who is due to step down next month after 18 years in power – and two years after the official end of his mandate.

The authorities have also confirmed cutting the broadcast signal of a local channel, Canal Congo TV. The channel is known to be close to former veep Jean Pierre-Bemba who was barred from contesting in the polls.

Internet blackout as Congolese await initial results

Reports indicate that there is a total internet blackout in the DRC capital Kinshasa. Text message service have also been affected to an extent.

But a member of the electoral body, CENI, confirms to French broadcaster, RFI, that there is no cause for alarm because they have their own means of communication.

In a statement issued on Monday, a group of western envoys tasked government to refrain from blocking means of communication and also called for observers to have access to result compilation centers.

“We request that the government refrains from blocking means of communication, in particular the internet and the media,” the statement read in part.

Almost twenty-four hours after the close of polls, counting continues across the country with very little by way of initial results. CENI had slated January 5 as the date first provisional results will be released.

Already the main competitors in the race are all claiming victory citing unofficial tabulation. Kabila’s preferred successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, is facing two coalition candidates – Felix Tshisekedi and Martin Fayulu of CACH and Lamuka respectively.

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