On 31 December, the day after the presidential election, the Congolese government cut off internet access. The European Union has called for the situation to normalise while the preliminary results are still awaited, one week after the poll was held. EURACTIV France reports.
In a statement issued on 1 January, the EU asked “the government to not block the means of communication and particularly Internet access as well as the media.” The note was addressed to the Congolese government and was also signed by the United States and individually by several European countries, including France.
Since the afternoon of Monday (31 December), Congolese people have been experiencing difficulties with connecting to the internet. Several telephone operators have said that they have obtained an injunction from the Congolese government to that end.
The government is concerned about misleading information circulating online and bringing about increased tensions. It is calling on people to wait for the official results from the electoral commission, which were expected to be given on 6 January at the latest.
But preliminary results have been postponed again, the head of the country’s electoral commission (CENI) announced on Sunday (6 January).
“We ask the nation to remain patient for the time it will take to consolidate all our data,” said Corneille Nangaa, the head of CENI, explaining that tally sheets were still trickling in.
A crucial political moment
The elections held on 30 December were historic for Congo. General elections were held across most of the country, facing violent armed tensions in the East and with the Ebola virus present in some regions.
In particular, the elections are supposed to appoint a successor to Joseph Kabila, who has been in office for 18 years but cannot seek re-election according to the constitution. In theory, his mandate should have ended just over two years ago.
The electoral battle mainly pits Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, Kabila’s designated successor, against Martin Fayulu and Félix Tshisekedi, heavyweights of the opposition. The three men have already expressed their firm belief that they will win the election.
It was against this eruptive background that the signal for Radio France Internationale (RFI) was turned off on Wednesday (2 January). The Congolese government accused the international radio station of “putting fuel on the fire” ahead of the official results. This measure was strongly criticised by the opposition.
EU forced out
On Friday 28 December, the representative of the European Union was “invited” to leave the country within 48 hours. Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy criticised an “arbitrary” act.
“The EU is a major partner of the DRC and its population. It maintains significant cooperation in the country. On the eve of crucial elections for the country, this decision is totally counterproductive and is detrimental to the interests of the population,” Mogherini said.
The atmosphere is therefore far from serene in the largest francophone country in the world, at a time when it is taking a democratic step that is unprecedented since the country gained independence in 1960.
On 2 January, the representative of the African Union for these elections called for “the results which will be declared to be consistent with the vote of the Congolese people.”