In Brief

DR Congo election chaos amid news blackout

Government blocks internet and text messages as turmoil mounts five days after national vote

Results from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s hotly disputed national election could be pushed back past Sunday’s deadline, the country’s electoral commission has said, raising fears of tampering by the government.

One of Africa’s largest and most populous nations is looking to secure its first democratic transfer of power since gaining independence from Belgium in 1960.

The country’s long-standing President Joseph Kabila is barred from running, with loyalist Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary facing off against opposition-backed Martin Fayulu and Felix Tshisekedi.

Regional election monitors including the African Union the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have described the 30 December vote as “reasonably well-managed” despite chaotic scenes that prevented many from voting.

The Guardian says the election, “which some observers hope may bring a measure of political stability to the vast central African country, was marred by widespread logistics problems, insecurity and an outbreak of Ebola. Millions were left unable to vote.”

The Catholic Church's observer team has reported more than 100 cases of election monitors being denied access to polling stations. It added that around 20% of polling stations opened late, and there were reports of polling stations being moved at the last minute.

As ballots from last Sunday’s vote trickle in “tensions prevail over the vote count”, says Al Jazeera.

The country has been without any internet access since Monday after officials instigated a total block on online connections and SMS texting services.

The move was intended to prevent the circulation of unofficial results because of “concern that this could sensationalise and intentionally skew results”, government spokesman Lambert Mende told the BBC.

In the latest move to crack down on unofficial reporting, the government has blocked the signal of a TV station owned by an opposition politician.

Canal Congo is owned by former rebel leader Jean Pierre-Bemba who is barred from running because of a conviction from the International Criminal Court (ICC) but is backing Fayulu.

Authorities have also cut broadcasts from Radio France International (RFI) after accusing one of its journalists of violating election law.

“We are not going to let a radio station throw petrol on the flames at a time when we are waiting for the compilation of the provisional results,” Mende told AFP news agency.

Pre-election polling showed Shadary trailing both his main rivals, raising fears the government could be seeking to manipulate the release of results.

The Guardian says opposition activists “believed the internet had been cut off to prevent people circulating information that could allow the official count to be challenged when it is announced”.

“It is very straightforward. They don’t want us to compile our own totals of votes,” one Kinshasa resident told the newspaper.

Olivier Kamitatu, a spokesperson for opposition candidates, said the media crackdown was part of a “plan to obscure the truth of the ballot box”.

However, in a sign of how confident the opposition are, a spokesman for Tshisekedi said he did not mind when the results were published as long as they are an honest reflection of the vote.

“Whether it's on Sunday or Monday, Tuesday, we don't mind. What we want are results published that reflect the truth of the ballot boxes, that is the most important thing,” he said.

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