Authorities in the West African country, Senegal have shut down internet connection in the country, per reports on Monday. This is coming after the widespread protests which followed the postponement of the country’s election which was initially scheduled for February 25, 2024.
Recall that on Saturday, Senegalese President Macky Sall announced the postponement of the election and what followed was a nationwide protest and unrest.
On Sunday, which is the second day after the election postponement announcement was made, the country’s Minister of Communication, Telecommunications and Digital Affairs, Moussa Bocar Thiam announced the internet shutdown in a statement.
Recall that the country was in the news a couple of times in 2023, for the same clampdown on internet services.
Issues surrounding the shutdown
According to Moussa Bocar Thiam, the internet shutdown was implemented due to the dissemination of several hateful and subversive messages relayed on social networks in the context of threats and disturbances to public order.
The Minister of Communication stated that:
“The internet of data mobile phones is temporarily suspended from Sunday, February 4, 2024, at 10 p.m.”
On Saturday, Senegalese President Macky Sall mentioned a conflict between the judiciary and parliament regarding the disqualification of certain candidates and the reported dual nationality of some eligible candidates.
Now, the country’s Federal lawmakers are set to debate a bill that recommends an election delay of up to six months which would put the next likely election date in August, four months after Sall’s tenure is due to end, per local reports.
Following that development, which is set to be the country’s first postponement of a presidential election in history, protests broke out in Senegal on Sunday. With opposition leaders denouncing the election postponement as a “constitutional coup”, further demonstrations were anticipated.
Notably, due to fatal clashes among opposition supporters and the disqualification of two opposition leaders whom the country’s highest election authority said did not meet election requirements, Senegal has experienced political tensions for over a year.
Now, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has urged the authorities in Senegal on Sunday, to urgently choose a new date for the country’s presidential election.
On the other hand, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed concern over the internet shutdown in Senegal amid the postponement of the election, calling on the government to restore internet access.
Senegal internet shutdown in 2023
In June 2023, the Senegalese government shut down the country’s internet following the arrest of Ousmane Sonko, an opposition leader in the country.
Later on July 31, a similar announcement was made with Moussa Bocar Thiam basing the decision on hateful comments on social media, per a statement shared on Twitter.
Since the 2011 Arab Spring, internet shutdowns have become a frequent way governments have sought to establish control. Estimates claim the West African country lost $300,000 per hour due to the internet shutdown in June 2023.
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