Congo suspends Internet, SMS services

The extreme order has been made in response to anti-government protests.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's government ordered ISPs and telecom firms to suspend internet access and SMS services in a bid to quell planned anti-government protests.

As reported by Reuters, government officials have demanded that internet services be cut off in response to protests on Sunday planned by activists which are demanding that President Joseph Kabila does not change the country's constitution in order to stand for a third term.

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Kabila has ruled since 2001 and was due to step down in December, but an election to select a new leader has been delayed by his administration to the extent that one is not planned until December 2018.

The release of select political prisoners has also been demanded.

Catholic grassroots activists and civil rights groups have called for peaceful protests in response to the political situation, however, the latest round of protests has led to heavy police response.

The protests have resulted in the death of at least seven citizens, according to the UN.

Speaking to the publication, Telecommunications Minister Emery Okundji said the decision was rooted in "state security" and "the government has the duty to take all measures to protect Congolese lives."

The DRC government has already limited access to some media platforms and the latest suspension has occurred "until further notice."

While mobile penetration in the country has reached roughly 44 percent, only approximately three percent of the population has frequent internet access.

Back in 2015, telecoms providers and ISPs including Vodacom, Airtel, Tigo, and Orange were ordered to cut off their services in DRC in an earlier bid to quash dissent and disrupt protester activities.

See also: Backdoors, encryption and internet surveillance: Which way now?

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