RFI programs resume in Congo after lengthy gov't shutdown

KINSHASA (Reuters) - Radio France Internationale (RFI) has resumed services in Democratic Republic of Congo after a 10-month shutdown over what the government said was the station’s sympathy for opposition rallies, RFI and the Congolese government said on Friday.

RFI, funded by the French government, was jammed on Nov. 5, hours before a banned opposition rally protesting against President Joseph Kabila’s plan to stay in power beyond the end of his mandate in December. RFI denounced the move as an infringement of press freedom.

“I can confirm that the RFI signal was restored in Kinshasa on Thursday night. We have reached an agreement with the French authorities,” said Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende.

Under the deal, RFI programs will resume on national Congolese radio, and RFI will provide training for local staff.

Kabila said it has not been possible to hold elections due to funding constraints, despite widespread protests and international calls for him to organize polls to find a successor.

His refusal to do so has stoked political and ethnic tensions across the central African country, a major copper producer.

At least 27 people were killed in clashes between protesters and police this week, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday. A U.N. report last week found 251 killings had taken place in three months this year in the diamond-rich central Kasai region.

In a bid to quell unrest, Congolese authorities ordered internet capacity to be slowed down on Monday. The main targets were social media sites Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Twitter.

Reporting By Patient Ligodi; Editing by Edward McAllister and Andrew Bolton