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DR Congo election: Government blocks TV station

The Democratic Republic of Congo has blocked the signal of a TV station owned by an opposition politician.

Officials are compiling the results from Sunday's election
Officials are compiling the results from Sunday’s el

Government spokesman Lambert Mende accused Canal Congo of announcing results of Sunday’s much-delayed presidential election before the official announcement.

This comes days after the internet was shut down nationwide.

The opposition has complained of irregularities in the election to find a successor to President Joseph Kabila.

He is stepping down after 17 years in office and has promised DR Congo’s first orderly transfer of power since it gained independence from Belgium in 1960.

Canal Congo is owned by former rebel leader and acquitted war crimes suspect Jean Pierre-Bemba.

He was barred from running for the presidency because of his conviction by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for bribing witnesses during his war crimes trial.

He is backing businessman Martin Fayulu in the presidential race.

Along with blocking Canal Congo, the authorities have also cut the broadcasts of Radio France Internationale (RFI) and withdrawn the accreditation of one of its journalists, Florence Morice, accusing her of violating electoral law.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,” Mr Mende told AFP news agency.

RFI has denied the accusation and defended its journalist.

Counting is under way and provisional results were initially expected to be announced on 6 January, but the electoral commission now says there could be a delay.

The head of the commission, Corneille Nangaa, said counting centres were still waiting for more than 80% of voting tallies to be submitted by local polling stations.

What are observers saying?

Regional monitors – from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community – have described last Sunday’s election as “reasonably well-managed”.

But the Roman Catholic Church’s observer team 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.

Another local observer group, Symocel, said some of its 20,000 agents were subjected to intimidation.

Who’s running for president?

There are 21 candidates, but three frontrunners:

  • Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, a former interior minister and Kabila loyalist, who was hit by European Union sanctions for his role in the violent suppression of opposition protests in 2017
  • Martin Fayulu, a former oil executive who has promised “a dignified and prosperous Congo”, but who poor Congolese feel may not advance their cause
  • Felix Tshisekedi Tshilombo, the son of a late veteran opposition leader who has promised to make the fight against poverty his priority
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Why was the internet shutdown?

The internet has not been working since Monday and neither have people been able to send SMS text messages.

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

But the ruling coalition, the Common Front for the Congo, said the internet outage was having an impact on the compilation of results.

What’s the background?

Mr Kabila took over from his assassinated father Laurent in 2001, but he was barred from running for another term under the constitution.

He was supposed to step down two years ago, but the election was postponed after the electoral commission said it needed more time to register voters.

The decision triggered violent clashes, as the opposition accused Mr Kabila of trying to cling on to power.

The run-up to the poll was also hit by controversy over the exclusion of some 1.26 million out of an electorate of nearly 40 million from voting.

The electoral commission said voting could not take place in the eastern cities of Beni and Butembo because of a deadly Ebola outbreak in the region. Voting was also called off in the western city of Yumbi because of insecurity there. BBC