Western powers urge DR Congo to restore Internet

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Leading western powers on Tuesday called on the Democratic Republic of Congo to restore internet access, which operators say was cut on government orders a day earlier following presidential elections.

They also backed a request by the main Congolese election monitoring organisations to have access to the centres where the votes are being counted since Sunday’s polling day.

The joint statement was issued by the European Union, the United States, Canadian and Swiss heads of mission in Kinshasa.

“We request that the government refrains from blocking means of communication, in particular access to the internet and the media,” said the statement.

Internet access was cut on Monday afternoon for an indefinite period on the orders of the government, internet operator Global told AFP Monday.

The authorities had also cut mobile phone texting, said mobile phone service Vodacom.

And Radio France Internationale said its broadcasts had been jammed from Monday evening. The station has carried extensive coverage of the presidential election in this francophone country.

The count is underway after Sunday’s vote to determine who succeeds Joseph Kabila as president after his 18 years in power, with the results expected next Sunday.

But the country’s two main election monitors — the National Episcopal Electoral Conference of Congo (CENCO) and SYMOCEL, an alliance of citizens’ observer missions — are still trying to get access to the count.

The joint statement by the western missions supporting their request for access was also backed by some individual EU member states — Belgium, Britain, France the Netherlands and Sweden.

Once the results at individual voting stations have been posted, they have to be compiled regionally and sent to the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI).

There are three front-runners among the 21 candidates for the presidency.

Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary is Kabila’s favoured candidate; Felix Tshisekedi, who now leads his late father Etienne’s UDPS party; and another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu.

All three have already claimed the vote is going their way.

New Years Eve passed off calmly in the capital Kinshasa, where the city’s night spots were open as normal.