DRC pulls internet plug, crippling customs

The DRC’s presumed electoral victor, Felix Tshisekedi.

Congestion has been substantially eased but customs crippled at Zambia’s Kasumbalesa border crossing into the mineral-rich Katanga province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

And as news spread that opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi had exceeded expectations by winning the DRC’s December 30 national elections, no news had been received about when the country’s internet connectivity would be switched back on.

According to one transporter responsible for shipping bulk fuel into the DRC’s copper belt area, DRC authorities pulled the plug on the country’s internet in a bid to gag the spread of speculative predictions as results were collated.

It played havoc with customs procedures at Kasumbalesa, said the source who has requested anonymity since first approaching FTW about freight constraints on the busiest border between Zambia and DRC.

Last year the crossing turned into a nightmare after the DRC limited the number of trucks allowed to enter the country from 500 to 200.

It gave the construction of a truck parking area at Whiskey Check Point north of Kasumbulesa as a principal reason why congestion had mushroomed between Whiskey and Chasubles Border Control in Kasumbalesa itself.

In the resulting chaos trucks queued for kilometres into Zambia as they waited to cross the border.

But although the congestion had been alleviated at Whiskey, connectivity issues at Chasubles had resulted in serious customs constraints, the source said.

In the meantime Tshisekedi’s victory is disputed by fellow opposition leader Martin Fayulu.

International observers have much of their final say riding on an influential body made up of the majority of the DRC’s Catholic bishops who seem to vouch for Fayulu as the election’s victor.

Until such time as the country’s Constitutional Court makes an official announcement, internet connectivity - and as a result, customs, will most likely remain severely hobbled.

- Eugene Goddard

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