The Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo has issued a directive to telecommunications companies in the country to block social media starting tomorrow (Sunday 18 December) to prevent unrest as president Joseph Kabila's mandate comes to an end.

Elections were due to be held in November, but were postponed to April 2018 after the electoral commission complained of inadequate resources to conduct the process. Kabila is required by constitutional term limits to step down when his second mandate ends on December 19, but a constitutional court ruled that he can stay on until a new successor is elected.

The shutdown is linked to a planned protest by a coalition led by opposition presidential candidate Γ‰tienne Tshisekedi, which has vowed to hit the streets to unseat Kabila.

In a letter to telecommunications companies, the Regulatory Authority of the Post and Telecommunications of Congo (ARPTC) will effectively block social networking platforms, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp.

"In cases where partial blocking is not possible", the letter stated, "you are required to block access to the relevant social networks entirely."

The letter from the ARPTC is said to have been sent to at least three telecommunications companies in the country, ordering them to "temporarily block sharing of images, video and voice [data] over the network" from 2359hrs local time on Sunday.

The operators have been warned that their licences could be withdrawn if they do not comply.

The opposition accuse Kabila of manipulating the system to cling on to power, while a faction of the opposition has agreed and through a national dialogue, got one of its members appointed Prime Minister.

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