Iraq Cuts Internet Again Amid Renewed Protests

Iraqi protesters rally on al-Jumhuriya bridge in the capital Baghdad on November 5, 2019, amid ongoing anti government demonstrations. Iraqi security forces fired live rounds yesterday at protesters in Baghdad, after four demonstrators were shot dead overnight outside the Iranian consulate in the holy city of Karbala. PHOTO: SABAH ARAR / AFP

 

Iraqi authorities again cut internet access in Baghdad and the south overnight following renewed clashes around official buildings in the capital.

Cyber security NGO NetBlocks said Tuesday that the blackout is “the most severe telecommunication restriction to have been imposed by Iraq’s government since protests began” on October 1.

While civil disobedience has been the main tactic since protests calling for the “fall of the regime” resumed on October 24, Monday was marked by violence.

Overnight on Sunday, four protesters were killed near the consulate of Iran in the holy city of Karbala, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Baghdad.

Protesters had tried to set fire to the consulate, accusing Iran of propping up the government they are trying to overthrow.

In central Baghdad on Monday, security forces fired live ammunition at protesters for the first time since demonstrations resumed on October 24, with clashes continuing into Tuesday.

Clashes flared on bridges leading to the cabinet offices, the foreign and justice ministries, and the Iranian embassy, with protesters throwing stones and security forces firing tear gas and live rounds.

Since protests began on October 1, about 270 people have been killed, mostly protesters, according to figures collated by AFP after authorities stopped releasing death tolls.

From October 1 to 6, officials said 157 people were killed, nearly all protesters shot by snipers, who the government said it was unable to identify.

From October 3, Baghdad cut the internet, only reconnecting it two weeks later. Blocks on social media websites remain in force, but can be bypassed by using a virtual private network (VPN) application.

AFP

As ‘Streaming Wars’ Rage, Social Networks Create Their Own TV Series

 

Even as Disney, HBO and Apple lavish billions on content to gatecrash TV streaming wars, social networks like Facebook, YouTube and Snapchat are creating their own original shows to get their piece of the advertising pie.

Historically, these three social networks are better known for hosting user-generated content.

But in recent years, each has invested in scripted programming which is free to view — unlike the streaming giants, who charge subscriptions.

At one stage, YouTube planned to charge for shows such as “Karate Kid” spinoff “Cobra Kai” and Generation Z comedy “Liza on Demand” using its premium service. But it backtracked this year.

Free access “gives advertisers more opportunities to engage with a broader audience … and align with top Hollywood talent and YouTube creators,” the company said in May.

For YouTube, which has at times been condemned for the questionable content posted by users, offering high-quality series with production values matching conventional television also burnishes its reputation.

Quality not quantity

Mark Beal, a Rutgers professor who wrote a book (“Decoding Gen Z”) on the generation born since the mid-1990s, said young people “do not respond to traditional advertising.”

But they may be more receptive to branding tied to original content on platforms such as YouTube, he said.

Still, after its ambitious burst of content, YouTube has slowed down its original production, scrapping multiple new and existing programs to focus on a few successful shows.

Quality not quantity also appears to be Facebook’s strategy on scripted shows.

In mid-October, it released “Limetown,” a web drama starring Jessica Biel based on a popular podcast of the same name.

In addition to boosting the social network’s image with prestige content, the show helps drive its Facebook Watch video platform.

Both “Limetown” and Elizabeth Olsen-starring flagship show “Sorry for Your Loss” benefit from and drive interaction among Facebook’s nearly 2.5 billion monthly users.

“That, to me, is the most exciting part,” Michelle Purple, co-producer of “Limetown,” said at the Toronto film festival in September.

“From week to week, audiences can have their water cooler moment together and talk about what happened, and what they think is going to happen.”

“Sorry for Your Loss” tackles themes of grief, and moderators are on hand to offer online psychological support for users seeking help.

Both dramas are dark in tone and intended for older audiences, reflecting Facebook’s demographic compared to younger platforms, such as Snapchat and TikTok.

Smartphone dominance

While Snapchat also produces fictional programming to increase user interactions and time spent on its platform, it does so in its own distinctive way.

Episodes are typically only a few minutes long, shot at a frantic pace with flashy visual effects, and are filmed vertically to suit smartphone viewing.

And unlike YouTube and Facebook, Snapchat is not skimping on quantity.

In April, it announced six brand new scripted shows, followed by a further three in September, on top of those already available including sorority hacking comedy “Kappa Crypto” and supernatural mystery “The Dead Girls Detective Agency.”

Though a long way from the $15 million per episode Apple TV+ is throwing at flagship series “The Morning Show,” parent company Snap is still happy to spend up to $50,000 per episode, according to media website Digiday.

“Mobile is now the dominant medium for telling stories and consuming content,” said Snapchat original content head Sean Mills at a summit in April.

“This transformation is creating massive new opportunities.”

AFP

German Shooter Video Stays Online Despite Crackdown

A special unit of the police examines on October 9, 2019 on a road in Werschen, eastern Germany, a taxi that was involved in the case of a shooting in Halle an der Saale, eastern Germany./ AFP

 

Video of a deadly shooting in Germany was easily accessible on 4chan, BitChute and other sites Thursday, attracting tens of thousands of views, despite efforts by tech companies to curb the spread of violent content.

Roughly 24 hours after the attack, video and links to an anti-Semitic “manifesto” published a week earlier by the gunman were also still available online using a simple keyword search on popular anonymous online forum 4chan.

The assault in city of Halle, which left two people dead Wednesday, took place as Jews marked the holy day of Yom Kippur, with the gunman streaming the attack live online.

The assailant’s 35-minute video was originally livestreamed on Twitch, an Amazon-owned, gaming-focused streaming platform.

Twitch said it was viewed live by just five users and a recording was seen by 2,200 people before it was flagged and removed.

But the full video was still available Thursday on multiple sites promoting violent and sexual content.

Two video links found by AFP had been viewed more than 90,000 times, according to the sites’ visitor counters.

One of them, BitChute, is a video-hosting service which enables peer-to-peer sharing.

It has become popular with the global “alt-right” as it avoids content restrictions on social media platforms like YouTube by relying on user donations rather than advertising.

BitChute has hosted content from prominent conspiracy theorists who have been banned from YouTube, including US vlogger David Seaman, who promoted conspiracies about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Users of 4chan have also repeatedly shared links to the full video from Halle since it was first uploaded on Wednesday.

A keyword search for “Halle” on the forum led to multiple posts with links to the footage.

One 4chan user posted a link to a downloadable copy of the gunman’s manifesto and the full video — with English subtitles added.

“After seeing a lot of non-german speaking anons always asking for what is being said in the Halle Synagogue Shooting Video,” they wrote, “I decide to translate it with subtitles.”

On another online forum, kiwifarms.net, AFP found at least one user offering a link to download the full video using torrent software, along with full instructions.

Christchurch Call

But the video was not readily available Thursday on mainstream social networking platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

This is in contrast to the livestreamed footage of the Christchurch mosque shootings in March, which was continually re-uploaded to these platforms despite a concerted effort to remove it.

After the Christchurch attacks, governments and tech companies including Amazon signed up to a partnership known as The Call, which aims to eradicate extremism and terrorism online.

“Amazon joined the Christchurch Call in New York, so the incident protocol that we’ve developed has kicked in,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said after the Halle attack.

“Companies are communicating as I understand with one other to ensure that that video does not spread online.”

Police captured the Halle suspect after a gun battle that left him injured.

Hong Kong May Shut Down Internet Over Violent Protests

Protesters burn items at the Causeway Bay metro station entrance in Hong Kong on October 4, 2019, as people hit the streets after the government announced a ban on face masks.  Nicolas ASFOURI / AFP

 

Hong Kong’s government may curb access to the internet in a bid to contain months of increasingly violent pro-democracy protests, a cabinet member told AFP on Monday, after an emergency-law ban on demonstrators wearing face masks failed to quell the unrest.

The warning came as the international financial hub remained partly paralysed from three days of protests in which the city’s rail network and business outlets seen as pro-China were badly vandalised.

The surge in protests was in response to the Hong Kong government’s announcement on Friday it would invoke colonial-era emergency laws not used for more than 50 years to ban demonstrators from wearing face masks.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the ban was needed to contain the unrest, which began nearly four months ago and has seen millions of people take to the streets demanding China stop strangling their freedoms.

Ip Kwok-him, a veteran pro-Beijing politician and member of Hong Kong’s executive council, fuelled those concerns when he said controls on the internet could be introduced.

“As long as there are possible ways to stamp down on the riots, the government will not rule out the possibility of placing a ban on the internet,” he told AFP.

Ip said the internet has been crucial to protesters, who have no public leaders and use online forums and encrypted messaging apps to mobilise.

But he said the government recognised any online shutdown could have a knock-on effect.

“I think a condition for implementing the Internet ban would be not to affect any businesses in Hong Kong,” he said.

The executive council is Hong Kong’s cabinet, an advisory body to Lam.

She announced the ban on face masks immediately after meeting with the council on Friday.

First mask arrests in court 

On Monday morning, a male university student and a 38-year-old woman were the first people to be charged with illegally wearing masks as supporters packed the courtroom, many wearing face coverings.

They were both charged with unlawful assembly, which carries up to three years jail time, and with defying the mask ban, which has a maximum one-year sentence. Both were released on bail.

Outside the court, demonstrators queued to get in, some chanting slogans like “Wearing a face mask isn’t a crime” and “The law is unjust”.

Many said they feared the mask ban was just the first of more emergency orders to come.

“It’s an excuse to just introduce other totalitarian laws, next is martial law,” one protester outside the court, who gave his surname Lo, told AFP.

 Few concessions 

The protests were ignited by a now-scrapped plan to allow extraditions of criminal suspects to the mainland.

This fuelled  fears of an erosion of liberties promised under the 50-year “one country, two systems” model China agreed to ahead of the 1997 handover by Britain.

After Beijing and local leaders took a hard stance to the initial protests, the demonstrations snowballed into a wider movement calling for more democratic freedoms and police accountability.

Lam has refused major concessions, but struggled to come up with any political solution.

The past week has seen a particularly intense stretch of protests.

The worst clashes to date erupted on Tuesday as China celebrated 70 years of Communist Party rule, with a teenager shot and wounded by police as he attacked an officer.

Over the weekend largely peaceful flash mob rallies and marches featured people wearing masks.

But more hardcore protesters also went on the rampage, trashing subway stations, ransacking government offices and vandalising businesses with mainland ties.

Large parts of the railway network closed over the weekend because of the vandalism, while many shops and malls were shuttered. Some subways stations and shops remained closed on Monday, a public holiday in Hong Kong.

Unsanctioned gatherings of masked protesters took place at multiple malls across the city on Monday afternoon.

 PLA warning 

Sunday witnessed the largest protests, with police firing tear gas to disperse tens of thousands of people marching on the main island. Clashes broke out at multiple other locations throughout the day, with dozens injured.

A warning flag was even raised on the roof of a People’s Liberation Army barracks after protesters shone laser pens at the building, the first time Chinese troops in the city have made such a move.

On the mainland, Beijing flexed its muscles by pulling a top US basketball team’s games from state broadcaster CCTV after its manager posted a tweet featuring the message “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong”.

The Houston Rockets tried to calm the waters, issuing apologies from players and the manager.

AFP

Bangladesh Cuts Mobile Internet Access In Rohingya Camps

Rohingya refugees arrive to attend a ceremony organised to remember the second anniversary of a military crackdown that prompted a massive exodus of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh, at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Ukhia on August 25, 2019.

 

Bangladesh cut access to 3G and 4G internet in Rohingya camps Tuesday, in a further clampdown on communications among the refugees as Dhaka grows increasingly frustrated with failed attempts to repatriate them back to Myanmar.

Despite an agreement between the two countries in November 2017 to send back the Rohingya, virtually none of the 740,000 who fled Myanmar following an August 2017 military crackdown in Rakhine state have returned.

The government has instructed operators to shut down 3G, 4G and LTE (Long Term Evolution) networks in the Rohingya camp areas in Teknaf and Ukhia, S.M. Farhad, secretary-general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh, said in a statement.

The border towns of Teknaf and Ukhia are home to three dozen refugee camps where the Rohingya live in squalid conditions.

2G services “will remain active,” Farhad added.

But Abu Saeed Khan, senior policy fellow at the LIRNEasia think tank, told AFP that the shutdown “effectively means the shutdown of internet. With 2G network, it will be almost impossible to access.”

Operators had already halted the sale of SIM cards in the camps and shut down 3G and 4G network connections between 5:00 pm and 6:00 am local time.

Bangladesh’s telecommunications regulator on September 3 ordered phone companies to temporarily cut off mobile access in the camps, citing security grounds.

The clampdown has stunned the refugees and disrupted communications between different camps and with Rohingya still in Myanmar.

Rights group Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged the government to end the restrictions, saying they “made matters worse”.

“The authorities should take a level-headed approach instead of overreacting to tensions and protests by isolating Rohingya refugees in camps,” HRW said.

Internet: A Distant Dream For Many In Oil-Rich Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinea is awash in oil, although little of the wealth has trickled down to the poor.

Also, one of the most glaring inequalities is access to the internet.

Other parts of the world are pushing ahead with plans for fast, free — or at least low-cost — universal online access. Equatorial Guinea, a small reclusive state on the coast of central-western Africa, seems stuck in a timewarp.

With rare exceptions, sluggish speeds and stratospheric bills are the daily lot of people who want to search for information on the web, use social media, email, messaging and the myriad of other internet activities that are routine elsewhere.

“The internet in Equatorial Guinea is still a big-money business, reserved for those who can afford it,” said Mboro Mba, 35, seated on the ground behind a hotel as he tried to hook into a free wi-fi service with his smartphone.

Equatorial Guinea has the most expensive internet in the world after Zimbabwe, according to a list published this year by Ecobank, a pan-African bank.

One gigabyte of mobile data — roughly equivalent to watching an hour of television on Netflix — costs an eye-watering $35 dollars (31 euros).

By comparison, the average monthly pay of a manual worker or restaurant waiter in Equatorial Guinea is between 100,000-150,000 CFA francs ($170-260, 150-230 euros).

“For 2,000 CFA francs (3.40 euros), I can’t even download an 80-second video,” a local journalist told colleagues from central Africa who had come to Malabo to cover a regional meeting and found themselves caught out by internet problems.

“You really have to be patient to work with the internet in this country,” said a visitor from the Republic of Congo, unsuccessfully trying to send files to his editor.

The barriers to internet access here are so high that the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN agency, estimates that just a quarter — 26 percent — of Equatorial Guineans go online.

The authorities have set up a “free, public internet network” along the Paseo Maritimo, a seafront six kilometres (3.5 miles) long in Malabo that is also used for sporting activities and leisurely strolls.

“I come here almost every evening to talk on WhatsApp to my mother who is in Spain,” says Filomena, 32, a clothes vendor.

“I don’t have the money to have an internet connection, so I come here often with my friends to use the wi-fi,” schoolboy Jorge Obiang says, leaning against a tree with several young companions, all glued to their screens.

A former Spanish colony, Equatorial Guinea is nominally one of the richest states in Africa thanks to oil income.

By next month, its president, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, will have ruled with an iron fist for 40 years — the longest tenure of any African leader alive today.

He has long been criticised for corruption within the regime and lack of openness to the rest of the world.

The slow service is especially paradoxical since “the country is situated in the Gulf of Guinea and so has access to a number of seabed cables”, said Julie Owono of Internet Sans Frontieres (Internet Without Borders), an NGO.

Equatorial Guinea — consisting of an island where Malabo lies and a forested territory on the African mainland that hosts trading capital Bata — is connected to three undersea fibre optic cables supplying internet service.

In neighbouring Gabon, internet access is five times less expensive on the scale drawn up by Ecobank.

No competition

The sky-high price of the internet “is explained by the very strong presence of the state (telecom) company on the market and lack of competition,” Owono said.

“Everything here is centralised, political decisions depend on one person or a family, and it is difficult to establish a competitive market.”

The state telecoms agency GITGE, which sets tariffs, declined to respond to AFP’s questions.

Another disincentive for the competition is internet blackouts ordered by those in power, she said.

In November 2017, on the eve of parliamentary elections, access to WhatsApp was blocked and social media became unavailable for five months.

“We’re living in the information era — the government is applying an enormous brake,” said Owono.

AFP

Court Orders End To Internet Blackout In Sudan

Alleged Bribery: Witness Testifies As Rickey Tarfa’s Trial Continues
File photo

 

A Sudanese court Sunday ordered authorities to end a nationwide internet blockade imposed by the ruling generals after a deadly crackdown on protesters earlier this month, a lawyer said.

Crowds of protesters were violently dispersed on June 3 by men in military fatigues, who stormed a weeks-long protest camp outside the army headquarters in Khartoum where they had camped to demand that the generals step down.

READ ALSO: Sudan Killings: Al-Bashir Should Face Justice, Says ICC

Internet on mobile phones and fixed land connections were cut across Sudan by the ruling military council, with users saying it was done to prevent further mobilisation of protesters.

Lawyer Abdelazim al-Hassan said he had filed a petition against the blockade, and on Sunday a court in Khartoum ordered that the services be resumed.

“I had filed the case 10 days ago and Judge Awatef Abdellatiff ordered the telecommunications department to resume the internet services immediately,” Hassan told AFP. Authorities can appeal the decision.

For the generals, the internet and social media are a threat.

“Regarding social media, we see during this period that it represents a threat for the security of the country and we will not allow that,” military council spokesman General Shamseddine Kabbashi said earlier this month.

The internet blockade was an attempt to quell new protests against the generals, who have so far resisted handing power to a civilian administration as demanded by demonstrators, protest leaders say.

Tens of thousands of protesters were mobilised through online social media apps during the months-long campaign against the now-ousted leader Omar al-Bashir.

Protest leaders have resorted to neighbourhood campaigns to keep their movement alive, with activists mobilising supporters in night-time gatherings, witnesses said.

AFP

Putin Signs Controversial Internet Law

Russian President Vladimir Putin / AFP

 

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed into law a “sovereign internet” bill which will allow Russian authorities to isolate the country’s internet, a move decried by rights groups. 

Russian lawmakers insist the new law is necessary to ensure the security of Russia’s online networks but critics say the vaguely worded bill gives new censorship powers to government monitors.

The text of the law was published Wednesday but it will not come into effect until November.

READ ALSO: May Day: Police Clash With Marching Protesters In Paris

The measures include creating technology to monitor internet routing and to steer Russian internet traffic away from foreign servers, ostensibly to prevent a foreign country from shutting it down.

The authors of the initiative say Russia must ensure the security of its networks after US President Donald Trump unveiled a new American cybersecurity strategy last year that said Russia had carried out cyber attacks with impunity.

Thousands of people recently rallied in Russia against this and other bills that critics say aim to restrict information and communication online.

Separately, Putin in March signed controversial laws that allow courts to fine and briefly jail people for showing disrespect towards authorities, and block media for publishing “fake news”.

The laws are part of an ongoing Kremlin clampdown on media and internet freedoms that has seen people jailed for sharing humorous memes.

Last week 10 international rights organisations called on Russia to scrap the internet bill.

“The bill created a system that gives the authorities the capacity to block access to parts of the Internet in Russia,” said a statement backed by Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders and others.

The blocking would be “extrajudicial and non-transparent,” the statement said.

Under the new law, Russian Internet access providers will also need to ensure that their networks have the technical means for “centralized traffic control” to counter potential threats.

This control will pass notably to the Russian FSB security service and the telecoms and media monitoring agency Roskomnadzor, which is often accused of arbitrarily blocking content on the web.

In recent years Russian authorities have blocked online sites and content linked to the opposition, as well as internet services which fail to cooperate with them, including the Dailymotion video platform, the Linkedin online social networking site, and the encrypted messaging app Telegram.

AFP

FG Denies Alleged Plot To Shutdown Internet During Elections

FG Denies Alleged Plot To Shutdown Internet During Elections
A file photo of the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (rtd).

 

The Federal Government has faulted the reports that the National Security Adviser (NSA) plans to shut down internet access during the general elections.

In a statement from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) on Friday, the government said there was no plan to order the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to work with service providers to shut down internet access during the polls.

It condemned the reports of the alleged plot to shut down internet access to facilitate rigging of the polls, noting that they were untrue.

“The Office wishes to advise the general public to disregard the allegation, which is disinformation,” said the government in the statement by the ONSA spokesperson, Danjuma Reuben.

“This Office wishes to state that the internet and associated communications infrastructure are major components of the Critical National Information Infrastructure (CNII), which ONSA is mandated to ensure its security.”

READ ALSO: Court Orders Forfeiture Of N1.04bn Allegedly Linked To Patience Jonathan

The government noted that the ONSA has been making continuous efforts in collaboration with relevant government ministries, departments and agencies to protect them and improve service delivery to Nigerians.

It stressed that every single national security platform in the country rides on the same internet to function.

The government, therefore, likened “shutting down” the internet to shutting down national development and security.

“The Office of the National Security Adviser remains committed to protecting the rights of the public to access Information and Communication Technology facilities,” the statement added.

“The Office also remains non-partisan and committed to ensuring that Nigerians freely exercise their civil rights.”

Zimbabwe Court Rules Against Internet Shutdown

 

Zimbabwe’s High Court on Monday ruled that State Security Minister Owen Ncube had no power to order the internet shutdown which took place during last week’s nationwide protests.

“It has become very clear that the minister had no authority to make that directive,” judge Owen Tagu said in a case brought by human rights lawyers and journalists.

The shutdown occurred as the security forces cracked down on protesters following a wave of demonstrations which turned violent.

AFP

‘Total Internet Shutdown’ In Zimbabwe

 

Zimbabwe imposed a “total shutdown” of the internet on Friday, a major provider told customers, after protests early this week triggered a ruthless security crackdown.

The internet had been partially restored after a first shutdown started on Tuesday.

“We were served with another directive for total shutdown of the internet until further notice,” Econet, the country’s biggest provider, said in a text message on Friday.

“Our lawyers advised we are required to comply with the directive pending the court decision on its legality. The earlier directive(s) are already the subject of pending high court application.

“We sincerely apologise for all inconveniences caused by the acts of government.”

The EU on Thursday joined the US and Britain in criticising the authorities’ response to the protests.

“The escalation of violence in Zimbabwe over recent days has been aggravated by the disproportionate use of force by security personnel,” European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said in a statement.

“The shutdown of access to the internet should also be reversed.”

The US embassy in Harare it was “alarmed by credible reports that security forces are targeting and beating political activists and labor leaders”.

Nationwide demonstrations erupted on Monday after President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced that fuel prices were being doubled in a country suffering regular shortages of fuel, food and medicine.

Mnangagwa, who succeeded ousted authoritarian president Robert Mugabe in 2017, had promised a fresh start for Zimbabwe after decades of repression and economic decline.

Trade unions called the national strike on Monday and the demonstrations took place in several cities with widespread rioting and looting.

Security forces have made about 600 arrests.

Police and soldiers have been accused of indiscriminately dragging people from their homes and beating them.

AFP

Western Powers Urge DR Congo To Restore Internet

 

Leading western powers on Tuesday called on the Democratic Republic of Congo to restore internet access, which operators say was cut on government orders a day earlier following presidential elections.

They also backed a request by the main Congolese election monitoring organisations to have access to the centers where the votes are being counted since Sunday’s polling day.

The joint statement was issued by the European Union, the United States, Canadian and Swiss heads of mission in Kinshasa.

“We request that the government refrains from blocking means of communication, in particular, access to the internet and the media,” said the statement.

Internet access was cut on Monday afternoon for an indefinite period on the orders of the government, internet operator Global told AFP Monday.

The authorities had also cut mobile phone texting, said mobile phone service Vodacom.

And Radio France Internationale said its broadcasts had been jammed from Monday evening. The station has carried extensive coverage of the presidential election in this francophone country.

The count is underway after Sunday’s vote to determine who succeeds Joseph Kabila as president after his 18 years in power, with the results expected next Sunday.

But the country’s two main election monitors — the National Episcopal Electoral Conference of Congo (CENCO) and SYMOCEL, an alliance of citizens’ observer missions — are still trying to get access to the count.

The joint statement by the western missions supporting their request for access was also backed by some individual EU member states — Belgium, Britain, France the Netherlands and Sweden.

Once the results at individual voting stations have been posted, they have to be compiled regionally and sent to the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI).

There are three front-runners among the 21 candidates for the presidency.

Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary is Kabila’s favoured candidate; Felix Tshisekedi, who now leads his late father Etienne’s UDPS party; and another opposition leader, Martin Fayulu.

All three have already claimed the vote is going their way.

New Years Eve passed off calmly in the capital Kinshasa, where the city’s night spots were open as normal.

AFP