Democratic Republic of Congo: State says it cut Internet to avoid ‘uprising’ after vote

Agents of Congo's National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) count casted ballot papers after election at a polling station in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, December 30, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 02 January 2019
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Democratic Republic of Congo: State says it cut Internet to avoid ‘uprising’ after vote

  • Worries of a new descent into violence deepened two years ago after Kabila, in power since 2001, refused to quit when his two-term limit expired

KINSHASA: The DR Congo government said Tuesday it had cut the country’s Internet services to avert a “popular uprising” as tensions rise pending the results of fractious presidential elections.
The opposition accused authorities of cutting the Internet on Monday to thwart activism, while leading Western powers called on the troubled central African nation’s government to quickly restore web access.
The long-delayed vote was barely completed on Sunday when the three main candidates — President Joseph Kabila’s hand-picked successor and two opposition leaders — each claimed that early counts showed them winning.
Kabila’s diplomatic adviser, Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, told AFP the national security council had decided it was “imperative” to shut down the Internet to allow the electoral commission to finish counting and compiling votes.
“There are people who have indoctrinated the public with false numbers about this election. This has laid the groundwork for a popular uprising,” he said Tuesday.
Karubi did not say how long Internet access would be down in the country which rivals continental western Europe in size.

The country’s electoral commission said Tuesday that provisional results will be announced on Sunday.
Final results are expected on January 15 and the next head of state will be sworn in on January 18.
A marathon vote count is underway in a climate of deep suspicion about fraud in a country scarred by political turmoil and haunted by memories of violence.
The Democratic Republic of Congo has never had a peaceful transition of power since independence from Belgium in 1960, and bloodshed marred elections in 2006 and 2011.
Worries of a new descent into violence deepened two years ago after Kabila, in power since 2001, refused to quit when his two-term limit expired.
Internet operator Global told AFP on Monday that web access had been cut for an indefinite period on government orders.
Several residents in the capital Kinshasa tried their luck at large hotels, where some Internet could still be accessed.
Others headed to street markets to buy credit for services in the neighboring Republic of Congo.
The authorities also cut mobile phone texting, according to service provider Vodacom.
Radio France Internationale said its broadcasts had been jammed since Monday evening. The station has carried extensive coverage of the election in the francophone country.

The European Union, United States, Canadian, and Swiss heads of mission in Kinshasa issued a joint statement Tuesday urging the government to restore Internet access.
“We request that the government refrains from blocking means of communication, in particular access to the Internet and the media,” said the statement.
They also backed a request by the country’s two main election monitors — the National Episcopal Electoral Conference of Congo (CENCO) and SYMOCEL, an alliance of citizens’ observer missions — to get access to vote counting centers.
A CENCO representative told AFP that observers had been refused access to voting centers in two provinces — Lomami and Sankuru.
However the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) said Tuesday that counting at all 179 local centers were “continuing normally.”
The CENI also said it would file complaints about “vandalism” at several spots overnight, without giving further details.
There are three front-runners among the 21 presidential candidates.
Kabila’s choice Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary; Felix Tshisekedi, who now leads his late father Etienne’s UDPS party; and another opposition candidate Martin Fayulu.
Pre-vote opinion polls indicated that Fayulu, a little-known legislator and former oil executive until a coalition of opposition parties chose him as its candidate, was the favorite.


Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

Updated 14 sec ago
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Hong Kong protesters continue past march’s end point

  • Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately
  • Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month

HONG KONG: Protesters in Hong Kong pressed on Sunday past the designated end point for a march in which tens of thousands repeated demands for direct elections in the Chinese territory and an independent investigation into police tactics used in previous demonstrations.

Around 10,000 people gathered in Admiralty, the district housing the city’s government complex, despite orders from police to disperse immediately. Others continued toward Central, a key business and retail district and the site of the 2014 Umbrella Movement sit-ins.

Large protests began last month in opposition to a contentious extradition bill that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to stand trial in mainland China, where critics say their rights would be compromised.

Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, has declared the bill dead, but protesters are dissatisfied with her refusal to formally withdraw the bill. Some are also calling for her to resign amid growing concerns about the steady erosion of civil rights in city.

A former British colony, Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997, and was promised certain democratic freedoms under the framework of 'one country, two systems.' Fueled by anger at Lam and an enduring distrust of the Communist Party-ruled central government in Beijing, the demonstrations have ballooned into calls for electoral reform and an investigation into alleged police brutality.

Walking in sweltering heat, protesters dressed in black kicked off Sunday’s march from a public park, carrying a large banner that read 'Independent Inquiry for Rule of Law.' 'Free Hong Kong! Democracy now!' the protesters chanted, forming a dense procession through Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district as they were joined by others who had been waiting in side streets.

“I think the government has never responded to our demands,” said Karen Yu, a 52-year-old Hong Kong resident who has attended four protests since last month. “No matter how much the government can do, at least it should come out and respond to us directly.”
Marchers ignored orders from police to finish off the procession on a road in Wan Chai, according to police and the Civil Human Rights Front, the march’s organizers.

Protesters repeated the five points of their 'manifesto,' which was first introduced when a small group of them stormed the legislature earlier this month. Their main demands include universal suffrage — direct voting rights for all Hong Kong residents — as well as dropping charges against anti-extradition protesters, withdrawing the characterization of a clash between police and protesters as a 'riot' and dissolving the Legislative Council.


Protesters read the demands aloud in both English and Cantonese in videos released Saturday. “We did not want to embark on this path of resisting tyranny with our bare bodies,” they said, “but for too long, our government has lied and deceived, and refused to respond to the demands of the people.”

While the demonstrations have been largely peaceful, some confrontations between police and protesters have turned violent. In Sha Tin district last Sunday, they beat each other with umbrellas and bats inside a luxury shopping center. Demonstrators broke into the Legislative Council building on July 1 by moving past barricades and shattering windows. Meanwhile, police officers have used pepper spray, tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets to quell the crowds.

On Friday, Hong Kong police discovered a stash of a powerful homemade explosive and arrested a man in a raid on a commercial building. Materials voicing opposition to the extradition bill were found at the site, local media said, but a police spokesman said no concrete link had been established and the investigation was continuing.