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Senegal Internet goes down following delayed elections

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Senegal has shut down internet for the third time in nine months, leaving citizens stranded.  

The latest shutdown follows President Macky Sall’s decision to postpone the presidential elections slated for February 25. The government has cited “hateful messages” on social media as the reason for the shutdown, following the same approach as the earlier shutdowns.

This isn’t Senegal’s first rodeo with internet blackouts. In June 2023, Senegal shut down its internet after an opposition leader, Ousmane Sonko, was sentenced to two years in prison after a prolonged legal dispute since 2021, in a high-profile moral corruption case. In July 2023, the internet was shut down again to “prevent disturbances” after Ousmane Sonko was arrested for inciting rebellion against the government.

While residents attempt to circumvent the restrictions through WiFi, the economic impact of the shutdown is significant. Reports suggest Senegal lost $300,000 per hour during the previous internet disruption in June, and Sub-Saharan African countries incurred $1.74 billion in losses due to such shutdowns in 2023.

Internet shutdowns have become a prevalent tool for African governments seeking to control information flow. In the past two years, governments in the Republic of the Congo, Niger, Uganda, and Zambia have cut off internet access during election periods.

Official narratives often justify shutdowns as measures to curb violence, maintain public order, or prevent the spread of misinformation. However, the shutdowns may be used to silence opposing voices, restrict freedom of expression and hinder transparency.

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