Congo shuts down telecoms during presidential vote

Supporters of opposition candidate Guy Parfait Kolelas attend a campaign rally ahead of Sunday's presidential election in Brazzaville, Republic of Congo on 17 March 2016. Photo: REUTERS/Roch Bouka

BRAZZAVILLE - The government of Congo Republic ordered the country's two largest telecommunications providers to block all communications during a presidential election on Sunday and again on Monday.

The decision, which a government source said was taken for reasons of security, will cause inconvenience and possible alarm in a country where there are few landlines and many rely on cellphone communication.

It is also highly unusual in the context of an election in Africa.

"The Minister of the Interior [Denis Kalume] indeed signed and sent a letter to ... MTN Congo and Airtel Congo to tell them that the state wants them to cut off communication on 20 and 21 March for reasons of security and public tranquillity," the source told Reuters.

President Denis Sassou Nguesso is expected to win the election and extend his long rule. On Friday he urged voters to give him a first-round victory.

Sassou Nguesso, who has led Congo for 32 of the last 37 years, pushed through constitutional changes in October to remove term and age limits that would have prevented him from seeking re-election.

Eight opponents are running against Sassou Nguesso, including retired General Jean-Marie Mokoko, who once served as the president's security adviser. 


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