Uncertainty reigns in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) after the government decided to shut down internet and Short Message Services (SMS) after voting during the Presidential elections.
According to reports from Congo, the ‘blackout’ was enforced to preserve public order after “fictitious results” were circulated on social media.
It is reported that three presidential candidates (out of 21) hinted victory to their supporters before the final tally is revealed.
The government has held that the country would remain offline until provisional results are published on January 6. The final tally will be published on January 15. The new president will be sworn in three days later.
According to the AFP, Vodacom mobile phone network said that the government ordered them to shut the internet down. The same was reiterated by internet service provider Global, who said that they were ordered by the government to shut down their text message services to customers.
President Joseph Kabila is stepping down after 17 years in office. He has promised DR Congo’s first orderly transfer of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
Mr Kabila is backing his former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, who is the ruling party’s candidate.
However, opposition candidate Martin Fayulu has accused the government of trying to steal his “overwhelming victory” through the shutdown.
Africa is the most affected continent in terms of internet shutdown to curb criticism and freedom in expression, followed by India.
The recent and longest internet shutdown happened in Cameroon when Anglophone regions of the country spent 230 days without internet access between January 2017 and March 2018.
It is estimated that in Congo, an internet shutdown costs USD3 million (Ksh300 million in just a single day.
A number of governments shut down shut down internet and SMS services to shun the spread of violence.
At one time, the government of China shut down internet in the Xinjiang region for a year after riots broke out in regional capital Urumqi in July 2009. This is thought to have set precedence for most African countries.
Uganda has already passed laws under which users must pay 200 Ugandan shillings (Ksh5.49) a day to use popular platforms like Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp.
In 2016, there were 75 internet shutdowns across the globe, but have reportedly spiked to almost 190 last year.
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