DRC shuts down internet after chaotic election

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The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has shut down internet access and SMS services following Sunday’s chaotic presidential election.

Officials say the shutdown was implemented in order to preserve public order and connections will remain cut until preliminary results are published on 6 January. Following the problematic vote on Sunday, both ruling and opposition coalitions have claimed victory and speculation over voting fraud is intensifying.

DRC cuts internet, SMS services

Opposition activists say the internet has been cut off to prevent people from circulating information that could allow the official count to be challenged when it is announced on 6 January. They argue the shutdown will only make it easier for a fraudulent result to be announced and more difficult to prove or disprove its validity.

Sunday’s election followed more than two years of delays after President Joseph Kabila’s mandate officially ended in December 2016. The vote, which was scheduled to go ahead on 23 December, was pushed back for another week with the electoral commission claiming it wasn’t ready to hold the poll.

The DRC finally got to vote for its new leader on Sunday but the election was marred by logistical problems, security threats and the DRC’s ongoing Ebola outbreak. Millions were left unable to vote, multiple opposition strongholds were left without polling stations and queues of voters were still waiting for their turn when the ballots closed.

Opposition figures accuse the government of attempting to orchestrate an election win for Kabila’s hand-picked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary – a little-known outsider in this election. They suspect the ruling coalition aims to get Shadary in office and then pave the way for Kabila to return in the DRC’s next presidential election.

Featured image: “USAID in DRC: North Kivu” flickr photo by USAID Africa https://flickr.com/photos/usaidafrica/40840738621 shared as a United States Government Work (PD)

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.