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
0

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.


Five suspects in court over Nairobi hotel attack

Updated 18 January 2019
0

Five suspects in court over Nairobi hotel attack

  • A magistrate granted a request from the prosecution to detain the four men and one woman for 30 days while investigations continue
  • Gladys Kaari Justus is being investigated over the transfer of money while Guleid Abdihakim — who holds Canadian citizenship — is being probed over suspicious communication

NAIROBI: Five suspects, including a Canadian citizen, appeared in a Kenyan court Friday in connection with a militant attack on a Nairobi hotel complex that left 21 dead.
A magistrate granted a request from the prosecution to detain the four men and one woman for 30 days while investigations continue.
The suspects are accused of “possible involvement in the almost 20-hour siege of the DusitD2 hotel and office complex by a suicide bomber and four gunmen who were all killed by security forces,” a court document said.
“The investigations into this matter are complex and transnational and would therefore require sufficient time and resources to uncover the entire criminal syndicate,” a statement from Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Hajji said.
A total of 11 suspects were arrested after Tuesday’s attack, however investigations into the others were still ongoing.
Those who appeared in court include Joel Ng’ang’a Wainaina, a taxi driver who ferried the attackers around on several occasions, and Oliver Kanyango Muthee, a taxi driver who drove one of the assailants to the scene of the attack.
Gladys Kaari Justus is being investigated over the transfer of money while Guleid Abdihakim — who holds Canadian citizenship — is being probed over suspicious communication.
The other suspect Osman Ibrahim is alleged to have met with one of the attackers on January 8.
Two suspects yet to appear in court, Ali Salim Gichunge and Violet Kemunto Omwoyo possessed SIM cards that were in “constant communication” with numbers in Somalia, court documents revealed.
The attack was claimed by Somali militant group Al-Shabab, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda which has repeatedly targeted Kenya over the presence of its troops in Somalia.
In 2013 an attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi left 67 dead, while in 2015 Shabab killed 148 people at a university in Garissa, eastern Kenya.