CONGO: Country Holds Elections amidst Communication Blackout

BRAZZAVILLE MARCH 22, 2016 (CISA) -The first round of presidential elections took place in the Republic of Congo, on March 20 amidst a communication blackout imposed by the government.

Telephone connections, SMS and the Internet were blocked for 48 hours to “prevent the opposition from publishing illegal results”, the authorities said. The government had also outlawed the use of motor vehicles nationwide during the vote, except for those with special permits.

Outgoing President, Denis Sassou Nguesso, is challenging eight opposition candidates. He has been in power for 32 years, and is seeking a third term in the oil-producing Central African country.

Despite protests in which at least 18 demonstrators died, Sassou Nguesso pushed through constitutional changes in October last year to remove term and age limits that would have prevented him from standing again. He is now heavily favoured to win the polls.

The opposition had condemned the communications blackout, saying it would prevent election monitors from doing their job, and warned of rigging.

On Sunday evening, police dispersed about 200 supporters of one of the opposition candidates, Guy Brice Parfait Kolelas, who wanted to assist the counting of votes at a polling station in the capital, Brazzaville.

General Jean-Marie Michel Mokoko is seen as the strongest challenger to President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

The Bishops of the Association of Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa Region ACERAC which includes Cameroon, Congo Brazzaville, Gabon, Central African Republic, Chad, Equatorial Guinea have recently launched an appeal for “just and peaceful elections” in their respective countries.

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