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.


Dutch arrest suspected Syrian militant commander: prosecutor

Updated 21 May 2019
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Dutch arrest suspected Syrian militant commander: prosecutor

THE HAGUE: Dutch police on Tuesday arrested a Syrian asylum seeker suspected of committing war crimes as a commander of the Al-Nusra Front militant group, prosecutors said.
The 47-year-old man, identified only by his nom de guerre Abu Khuder, was detained in Kapelle in the southwestern Netherlands, the Dutch federal prosecutor said.
“The man is accused of participating in the armed struggle as a commander or a terrorist Jabhat Al-Nusra battalion,” the prosecutor said in a statement, using another name for the Al-Nusra front.
It said he was held “on suspicion of committing war crimes and terrorist crimes in Syria,” adding that he had fought in a battalion known as Ghuraba’a Mohassan (Strangers of Mohassan).
The arrested Syrian has lived in the Netherlands since 2014 and was granted a temporary asylum permit, the statement said.
Police searched the suspect’s house and recovered documents, a computer and a smartphone, it said, adding that he was due to appear in court on Friday.
He was arrested based on information provided by German police, where six homes belonging to suspected members of the same battalion were raided, it added.
German police “provided witness testimonies against the suspect,” the Dutch prosecutor said.
The Al-Nusra Front was allied to Al-Qaeda but renounced ties to the group. Under a new name, it now dominates the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which holds administrative control of the Syrian city of Idlib.
The arrest of the Syrian comes as the Netherlands grapples with the problem of what to do with home-grown radicals who went to fight in Syria.
At least 315 people left the Netherlands since the start of Syria’s civil war in 2011 to join militant groups, according to Dutch media reports quoting official figures.
Around 85 have been killed in the fighting and 55 have returned.
The issue was highlighted in March when the Dutch husband of a British-born teenager who fled to join Daesh said he wanted her to live with him in the Netherlands along with their child.