WhatsApp, Facebook, And Twitter Blocked In Zambia As Country Counts Presidential Polls

Zambia's government has shut down Internet access across the country, prior to the announcement of the results of a tight presidential election.

The election hotly contested between President Edger Lungu who has been in power since 2015, and main rival Hakainde Hichilema was marred by Internet restrictions and violence in three regions.

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The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano said the full results of the election will be known within 72 hours after polls closed.

Several Internet users complained that they couldn't access social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and others, except through virtual private networks (VPN) to get around the restrictions.

Social giant Facebook too confirmed that it was among those impacted by the Internet shut down.

"We know that temporary disruptions of Internet services have tremendous, negative human rights, economic and social consequences, and continue to strongly oppose these," a Facebook spokesperson said.

While mobile phone networks directed questions of the Internet shut down to the government, the government, however, declined to comment on the issue.

Millions of Zambians came out to vote during the election, forcing some polling stations to remain open past their official time of closing, which led to a large voter turnout.

The use of social media apps like WhatsApp is part of the everyday life of millions of Zambians. However, given that the results are seen as too close to call, restricting Internet access could fuel suspicion over the outcome of the vote.

President Lungu has expressed doubt on the outcome of the election in the three provinces marred by violence which resulted in the death of a ruling party official. He accused the opposition of the violence and directed the army to send reinforcements to the provinces.

Despite the hullabaloo, European and African observers on ground said the vote had so far been largely peaceful.

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