The Kinshasa Commercial Court has completed the first hearing of a dispute between consumer rights activists and Congolese cellcos Vodacom, Orange, Airtel and Africell over interruptions to internet connectivity between 31 December 2018 and 20 January 2019, Agence Ecofin reports. The wireless providers argued that the shutdown – which took place the day after the troubled country’s delayed presidential election – was ordered by the authorities. The Consumers Union of Congo, meanwhile, claims that the operators have a contract with their customers, with the group’s legal representative quoted as saying: ‘They are not right to hide behind the injunctions received from any institution or ministry to unilaterally break the service contract with their subscribers.’
In the wake of the shutdown in December, the Guardian quoted Barnabe Kikaya Bin Karubi, a senior adviser to the outgoing president, Joseph Kabila, as saying that the internet and SMS services had been cut to preserve public order and prevent the spread of a ‘fictitious result’ via social media.
TeleGeography notes that a similar case was taken up by activists in Chad last year, protesting against government-mandated internet throttling that was put in place in March 2018 (and is still in effect to-date), also in the midst of political turmoil.