S/Leone ‘Temporarily’ Shut Down Internet after Runoff Vote

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Sierra Leone's Internet Service Providers have restored the internet as of yesterday's morning

-Pundits cite Liberia and Ghana elections having been credible with internet facilities intact

Multiple reports indicate that Sierra Leonean authorities temporarily shut down the Internet after close of polls in the presidential runoff, but that web services have since been restored as of Sunday morning, the Africa News reported yesterday.

The reports recalled how Ghana and Liberia, for example, went through the respective electoral processes in December 2016, and in October last year without anyone tampering with Internet facilities following results of those two elections.

The shutdown was also corroborated by Internet censorship outfit, Open Observatory Network Interference (OONI). The group said according to Google traffic statistics, there was a noticeable decrease in traffic from Sierra Leone to search.

An election monitoring group, Sierra Leone Decides, reported on Sunday morning that Internet Service Providers said the measure was to stop the elections body (National Electoral Commission) and affiliates from sharing results data to party affiliates.

Umaru Fofana @UmaruFofana

The authorities in #SierraLeone shut off internet on Saturday night shortly after polls closed. It’s only just been restored.

Sierra Leone Decides (@SierraDecides) tweeted: “Sources in the Internet Service Providing Sector are telling us that Internet was shut down to stop @NECsalone and election bodies from sharing results data to party affiliates. Internet and phone services have been restored this morning.”

Sabrina Mahtani (@Sabrina_Mahtani) tweeted: “Sources in #SierraLeone report that the internet was shut off during counting of votes, but has been restored this morning. The government must continue to uphold freedom of expression during the election’s final stages.”

According to the report, there has been no official communication on the Incident as citizens continue to wait for results from the March 31 runoff that pitted the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) against the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP).

SLPP’s Julius Maada Bio won the first round of voting held on March 7, but failed to secure an outright victory. APC’s Samura Kamara, who came second, will look to overtake Maada Bio, and to succeed outgoing President Ernest Bai Koroma.

Except for The Gambia in December 2016, according to the report, presidential elections in West Africa have been held without Internet disruptions.

For example, Ghana went through the process in December 2016, and Liberia in October last year.

Other African countries that have blocked Internet access during presidential elections have justified the action as being in the interest of national security.

Congo Republic, Chad, Uganda and Somalia’s Somaliland have all undertaken a similar measure. On the other hand, Kenya, Egypt, Angola and Rwanda have all held elections with the Internet on.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. There is no good reason why a nation’s internet service should be shut down during an election. The question is do the Europeans or the Americans shut down their internet services when elections are being held? It’s about time that we in Africa had done things responsibly.

  2. The question to consider before your kind of judgment is, “does the action favor any one candidate over the other?” If not, then your point is moot!

  3. Regardless of whether a particular candidate is favored over a host of candidates, it is wrong to shut a country’s internet service down when a planned election is being held. There is an exception though. If a country is at war or if there is an extreme emergency, it’s understandable. In countries where the internet service was shut down during election (Liberia and Ghana, for instance) there was no mutiny or any calamitous event foreseen. It would be considered dirty politics if internet services are being shut down because of favoritism. On the other hand, maybe the internet services of Ghana, Liberia and recently Sierra Leone were shut down because of favoritism. Is that how things will always be done in Africa? I hope not. I think we should act responsibly.

  4. The decision to shut down internet services in the affected countries is a critical safety valve resolve, a drastic measure intended to forestall any potential post election violence often instigated by rumor mongering and other forms of conspiracy theories, using the internet as convenient facilitating platform. Incidentally and for your information, the stakeholders in those elections are consulted and it meets their “go ahead,” and regardless of inconsequential whining from obvious quarters. How often do you hear of post election violence in the countries or areas you referenced here? Yours is quite typical of losers everywhere on our continent, someone else is always responsible for their inevitable and miserable failures and no matter the poor and inadequate preparation as prima facie evidence to the contrary. SMDH as in unbelievable.

  5. If internet services are being shut down in some parts of Africa during election in order to avoid potential danger, and if the shut down meets the approval of the immediate stakeholders or politicians, I have no major qualms. In any case, the reason the shutdown occurs is that there is a problem. That problem, irrespective of how minute or gigantic, needs to be fixed. Otherwise, shutdowns will occur all the time.
    Snyder, you don’t need my lecture because as an intellectual, you know how depraved some African leaders are. Instead of doing things in the nation’s interest, the capricious African politicians do things to please their self-centered egos. To make matters worse, sometimes the depraved leaders create enemies in order to divert attention from the pressing issues of their respective countries. An internet service does not need to be shut down during any election. The problem can be fixed.

    There are countries mentioned in the article that did not shut their internet services down when an election was being held. If others could do it (I hope not by a magic wand) it can be done by all. That’ll be counted as progress.

    • By the same token, we learn from ours or others’ mistakes. It might inform you as well the fact that the sale of gasoline and other inflammatory products are sometimes prohibited in some countries on the day of, and following election. I need not tell you why, because prevention as cure is always preferable over other stinging options after the fact. But most importantly, those decisions are often the result of, or byproducts gleaned from the mood of the environments necessitating those drastic measures. When parties in an election are vowing to burn down cities, or make a given country ungovernable until whatever their demands are met, for example, such threats or postures usually justify radical or desperate stances as countermeasures. It’s called being pro-active!

  6. There are some rumbuctious maniacs who are acclimitized to mayhem. These disgruntled individuals are on a par with domestic terrorists. Their modus operandi is simple…they exhilarate themselves by threatening civil life. Only decrepit individuals will shout profanities and threaten a demoncratic process.

    Snyder, if you have a garden in your backyard (as I did in Chicago), you may build a fence to stop raccoons or rabbits or squirrels from enjoying your vegetables these creeps did not plant. Won’t you? In this scenario, you are the owner of the garden, and not the animals. In African states where domestic terrorists threaten disruptions, concrete steps ought to be taken by elected governments to quash the terrorists’ plans.

    The bottom line is whether the stakeholders are not clandestinely involved in the destabilization process. That’s something we may never know.

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