The government of Senegal has restricted citizens' access to mobile internet services in what it describes as an attempt to prevent dissent and further protests inspired by the postponement of the country's presidential elections.
The shutdown was announced yesterday by the Senegalese minister for communication, telecommunications, and digital affairs, Moussa Bocar Thiam, about 24 hours after the polls were officially pushed to a later date.
On February 3, President Macky Sall indefinitely postponed elections that were meant to be held on February 25. Unhappy, with the decisions, hundreds of Senegalese, including opposition leaders and their supporters, opened serious protests.
They denounced the postponement, calling it a constitutional coup designed to keep Sall in power longer than the law allows. Due to the scale of the demonstrations, protesters clashed with the police on the streets of Dakar, where they were tear-gassed into hiding.
As the situation seemed to escalate, the government has cut mobile internet access to jam communications between protesters. It is not clear which platforms are affected and, though said to be temporary, how long the cut would last.
“The internet of data mobile phones is temporarily suspended from Sunday, February 4, 2024, at 10 p.m., due to the dissemination of several hateful and subversive messages relayed on social networks in a context of threats of disturbances to public order.”
The Francophone West African nation is no stranger to internet blackouts. In June 2023, protests challenging the conviction of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko resulted in a nationwide web cut that lasted for at least a week.
Per Top10VPN, Senegal lost $57.5 million to 3,946 hours of internet shutdown in 2023, putting it among the top ten most affected economies in the world. With that much loss, it has one of the most expensive internet shutdowns in Africa.
It's the "year of elections" in Africa, and Senegal is the second country in the continent to cut internet access in 2023. Last month, it was Comoros with a similar move and there is no telling how many more would follow.