A sad start to the year for Congo


Hardly the page of the tour schedule we find more trouble on the Internet.

Today, Cloudflare can confirm, figures in support, that the Internet was cut in the Democratic Republic of Congo, information previously revealed by multiple organs release . This cut took place while the presidential election was held last December 30, and continues during the publication of the results.

Sadly, this situation is far from being a novelty. We have reported similar events in the past, including another Internet shutdown in the DRC less than a year ago. An unfortunately familiar curve is now visible on our network management platform, showing that the traffic in the country painfully reaches a quarter of its usual level.

that the diagram is graduated in UTC time, and that the capital of the DRC Kinshasa is in the GMT + 1 time zone.

The fall of the traffic started at the middle of the day on December 31st 2018 (at about 10h30 UTC, 11.30 local time in Kinshasa). This is all the more striking when all the daily curves are superimposed:

Above, the red curve represents the traffic of December 31, and the gray curves that of the Previous 8 days. Considering the same analysis with the bandwidth today, we can confirm that the situation continues to be abnormal:

Other actors of the Internet have made the same observation . We hope to inform our readers as soon as possible of a return from the country to a normal Internet connection.

While 85 million people live in the country, very few of them have access to the Internet (6.21% of them, according to Wikipedia and its list countries ordered by number of Internet users). The country is also very large (2,344,858 km2), the 11th largest in the world, accounting for a quarter of the surface of the United States, and almost twice as large as South Africa. These elements combine, and because of a limited deployment of fiber in the country, there is still a lot of place that accesses the Internet through an expensive and limited satellite link. We also note through our traffic measurements that these areas have not undergone the same break:

Note how low the bandwidth is and represents a of all traffic to the DRC. Comparing this to the diagram of one of the largest mobile Internet operators in the country, we clearly see the break:

A Repetitive Situation Around the World

About 15 months ago, we wrote about a cut in Togo, and added this country to the list including Syria (twice), Iraq, Turkey, Libya, Tunisia … countries that have restricted or cut Internet access to their population. We also wrote about the troubles in Gabon (in 2016) and in The Gambia (the same year). In the latter case, the incumbent president lost the election. In fact we wrote: "Rather than muzzle the opposition, it is quite possible that blocking access to the Internet will make voters angry and stir up a protest vote." We are waiting to see what will happen in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

We will update this blog post as soon as we notice a change in the traffic. The Congolese government has declared that it will restore Internet access after the publication of the results, on January 6, in four days.

The Galileo and Athenia Projects

At Cloudflare, we will continue to do our job to ensure that all vulnerable voices have access to the Internet. Our Galileo and Athenia projects help sites at risk (such as those of human rights NGOs, journalists, and government institutions publishing election results) to resist attacks that threaten to take them offline.

We also support the principles of a Web Contract, which encourages governments to make a commitment to permanently maintain access to all Internet. We only hope to see more results in this favor during the year 2019.


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