Telecoms services restored in Congo after government suspension

Telecoms services restored in Congo after government suspension

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 government figures.

“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.

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