02 January 2018
| James Pearce
Internet and SMS services in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been restored days after the government ordered service providers to cut them ahead of planned anti-government protests.
Reports from the AFP news agency claimed the Congolese
minister for telecommunications Emery Okundji had told mobile
operators to cease providing internet and SMS services "for
reasons of state security" amid angry demonstrations that
reportedly resulted in the deaths of at least eight people.
Catholic and opposition groups pushed ahead with banned
demonstrations on Sunday 31 December calling for President
Joseph Kabila to commit to not changing the constitution to
allow him to stand for a third term. Kabila has been in power
since 2001 and was due to step down in December.
Okundji wrote a letter to telcos operating in the country
ordering them to suspend services by 6pm local time on 30
December, ahead of the protests, according to reports.
"It is for reasons of state security," telecommunications
minister Emery Okundji told Reuters. "In response to violence
that is being prepared ... the government has the duty to take
all measures to protect Congolese lives." Services have now
been returned, however, according to AFP.
It is not the first time the Congolese government has axed
internet services amid protest activities. In 2015, providers
including Airtel, Tigo, Orange and Vodacom were ordered to cut
off services. Mobile penetration I around 44%, although 3% of
the country has frequent internet access, according to
"Internet cuts, even short ones, disrupt economic growth,
interrupt essential services, undermine investor confidence and
degrade the country’s image," according to a study
published in September by the Collaboration on International
ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa.