Democratic Republic of Congo blocks the Internet ahead of anti-Kabila protests

The Democratic Republic of Congo's (DRC) government blocked the Internet starting on Sunday, 21 January 2018. This is in anticipation of planned protests where citizens are requesting that President Joseph Kabila vacate his current position.

Along with blocking the Internet, roadblocks were set up in the capital city of Kinshasa.

Around midnight on Saturday, 20 January 2018, reports started coming in that the Internet had been blocked as people couldn't access their e-mails, social media, and messaging platforms. This follows a call by Catholic church leaders in the DRC for "peaceful demonstrations" against Kabila also requesting that he step down.

This is not the first time that the Internet has been blocked in the country as a result of protests. During December 2017, the government of the DRC issued a directive to telecommunications companies to block social media. The reason given by the government at the time was that the shutdown will prevent unrest during anti-Kabila protests as his mandate was supposed to come to an end, but elections were not planned nor held.

Despite the government banning protests in the DRC since 2016, the Muslim community has also come out in support of the Catholic church pleading with the government to allow protests to go ahead peacefully.

The December 2017 anti-Kabila protests ended with police and the army shooting protestors. As a result, 12 people were reported to have been killed.

Kabila has been the DRC's president since 2001. His presidential term is supposed to have ended in December 2016 but he has continued as president without any elections held.

The DRC is a key player in the Information Technology supply chain as it is home to the world's largest Coltan and Cobalt deposits. Both natural resources are used in the manufacturing of numerous electronic devices including smartphones and electric vehicle batteries.

Cover image credit: Marie-Françoise Plissart, 'Kinshasa 5X5 Montage'. | Wikimedia Commons

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