The citizens of the Republic of Congo have been left without access to the Internet because of what specialized organizations have described as a "total cut" of digital communication during the first hours of voting in the presidential elections this Sunday.
The organization NetBlocks has confirmed that the country "is in the middle of an Internet blackout" after "an almost total loss of connectivity since midnight local time." "The information blocking is in progress from the opening of the polls at 06.00," the group added in a statement.
The incident follows a pattern of Internet shutdowns on election day in Congo-Brazzaville, according to the agency, which recorded five years ago "a similar information blackout" imposed by the authorities during the 2016 presidential elections.
In the last hours, the hospitalization for coronavirus of Guy-Brice Parfait Kolélas, one of the main rivals of the president and undisputed favorite of these elections, Denis-Sassou Nguesso, has been announced.
The candidate received the diagnosis on Friday morning and his condition has worsened considerably in recent hours, according to his campaign manager, Cyr Mayanda, who does not rule out his evacuation to France this Sunday, reports Radio France International.
A weakened Kolélas published a video on social networks last afternoon , assisted by a mechanical respirator that he removes from his mouth to address the population: "I am in difficulty, I am fighting death, I ask you to vote for change", declared the candidate of the Union of Humanist Democrats (UDH) from the hospital in the capital, Brazzaville, where he is resting.
The 77-year-old president came to power in 1979 and remained in office until 1992, when he was defeated at the polls. However, he returned to the presidency as a result of the insurgent forces that he himself led in the civil war of 1997, without ever leaving his position.
His last electoral victory, in 2016, came after a series of reforms to the Congolese Constitution so that he could run for a new term. The modifications included the elimination of age limits and terms of office, which would have prevented him from going to the polls.
However, the president is expected to win re-election comfortably , as the country's main opposition party, the Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS), has announced that it will boycott the vote , which could pave its way to victory.
The boycott has been joined by the National Council of Republicans (CNR), headed by the rebel leader Frédéric Bintsamou, alias 'Pastor Ntoumi', who took up arms in 2016 after the re-election of Sassou Nguesso and who on this occasion, on the contrary , has called for calm before the appointment with the polls.