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Warning of ‘Fictitious’ Election Results Online, Congo Cuts Internet for 2nd Day

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo — The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government cut internet connections and SMS services across the country for a second straight day on Tuesday as the country nervously awaited results from the weekend’s chaotic presidential election.

Both the opposition and ruling coalition said on Monday they were on track to win after a turbulent Election Day on Sunday, in which many Congolese were unable to vote because of an Ebola outbreak, conflict and logistical problems.

Barnabé Kikaya bin Karubi, a senior adviser to President Joseph Kabila, said internet and SMS services were cut to preserve public order after “fictitious results” began circulating on social media.

“That could lead us straight toward chaos,” Mr. Karubi said, adding the connections would remain cut until the publication of complete results on Jan. 6.

The signal to Radio France Internationale (R.F.I.), one of the most popular news sources in Congo, was also down, and the government withdrew the accreditation of R.F.I.’s main correspondent in the country late Monday for having aired unofficial results from the opposition.

The various moves reflected high tensions in Congo, where the long-delayed election was meant to choose a successor to Mr. Kabila, who is set to step down next month after 18 years in power — and two years after the official end of his mandate.

Congo has never seen a democratic transfer of power, and a disputed outcome could lead to a repeat of the violence that followed elections in 2006 and 2011, and a wider security breakdown in its volatile eastern provinces.

The opposition said the election was marred by fraud and accused Mr. Kabila of planning to rule from the sidelines through his preferred candidate, the former interior minister Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary.

Internal United Nations reports noted allegations of irregularities across the country. In some parts of eastern Congo’s North Kivu Province, for example, militia fighters reportedly forced voters to select candidates from the ruling coalition, they said.

The United Nations also received reports that security forces had intimidated voters to choose ruling coalition candidates.

The government and national electoral commission said the election was fair and that any problems were minor.

In the eastern city of Goma, residents were on edge as they awaited the results.

“If the results during the publication of the presidential results don’t reflect the truth,” said Fabrice Shweka, a Goma resident, “trouble will break out across the city.”

The first partial results were initially expected on Tuesday but an electoral commission spokesman, Jean-Pierre Kalamba, said that they would not be ready until around Friday.

“We don’t want to release too many voting trends because in our country we don’t have a population that has the same understanding” of electoral practices as in Europe, he said.

In a statement late on Monday, the embassies of the United States and several other countries called for calm and urged the government to restore internet access.

Mr. Shadary faced off in Sunday’s poll against two main challengers, Félix Tshisekedi and Martin Fayulu. Before the vote, opinion polls showed both running ahead of Mr. Shadary.

Mr. Fayulu complained in a statement on Monday about irregularities during Sunday’s vote but said he was encouraged by the determination of Congolese to vote, despite long queues and voting machines that broke down.

“I call for vigilance across the board and the general mobilization of all Congolese so that the truth of the ballot box, the sole witness to the will of the Congolese people, can reward their efforts and sacrifices,” he said.


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