Internet based communication in Senegal has been cut off, as the country enters a fifth day of unrest over upcoming elections.
The government has blocked the internet in the country, leaving relatives and friends around the world unable to contact loved ones.
On Sunday, Senegal’s Minister of communication, telecommunication and digital economy announced they were cutting off the internet at certain hours of the day due to “hateful” and “subversive” messages shared on social media.
NetBlocks, an internet observatory, confirmed traffic data indicates Senegal’s mobile internet access has been suspended.
The riots are over the President’s attempt to break the constitution and run for a third term. More 16 people have been killed and at least 500 people arrested.
Although the government attempted to limit access to some other social media platforms last week, many still had access to the internet after they used Applications to change their location.
Some family members say they woke up today to get feedback on their families based in Senegal but they didn’t succeed.
“I tried calling my brother this morning like we usually do on WhatsApp but it didn’t go. I sent a message but he has not replied”, said Oumarou Adamou, a carpet cleaner based in Cameroon.
“We are all worried about our family over there with everything that is happening”, he added.
Another family said they were worried over their son who runs a shop in Dakar. “We talked yesterday but today he is unreachable”, said Amina Nana.
Some families have however succeeded in reaching their loved ones through regular calls, which can be quite expensive as compared to mobile internet use.
The riots in Senegal erupted after opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to two years in jail over charges he raped a woman in a massage parlour and then threatened her to keep quiet.
Protesters say the sentence is an attempt by the Macky Sall led government to stop Sonko from running in the February 2024 presidential election.
Ciré Clédor Ly, member of a collective of lawyers backing Ousmane Sonko said they had been unable to reach their client, after he was seized by over 500 police officers.
President Macky Sall is seeking a third term in office, to the dismay of many, since the country has a two-term presidential limit.
Shutting down the internet to stop the spread of hateful content and fake news is gaining momentum as a control tactic by governments in Africa.
Cameroon’s President shut down the internet for 240 days in 2017 after a consortium of civil society actors in the English Speaking regions started a protest that has developed into a seven year war.
During a meeting on digital space in March, actors and partners of the United Nations said it was about time the world reinforced access to the internet as a human right, and not just a privilege.
As tension continues to rise especially in the suburbs of Senegal, human rights actors are suing for peace and respect for human rights.
The President of the International Federation Of Human Rights in Senegal, Alice Mogwe said the combination of respect for the Constitution, an impartial justice system and the immediate launch of a wide-ranging dialogue based on respect for human rights which is open to all components of the nation, can help savage the situation at hand.
“It will enable Senegal to re-establish its historically recognised stability in any sustainable way,” Mogwe said.
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