Gambia Becomes The Latest Afrikan Country To Shut Down The Internet On Election Day

With elections due to take place in Gambia on 01 December 2016, it appears that authorities in Gambia have shut down the country's Internet.

Akamai Gambia Graph
Akamai Technologies Graph Showing Internet Traffic In Gambia

This Internet shut down in Gambia on election day adds the country to a list of Afrikan countries who have in recent years on or before elections have fully or partially blocked internet access and mobile communications, which includes Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda to name a few.

This is not a complete surprise as there have been rumors and suspiscion circulating in Gambia that President Yahya Jammeh could possibly be considering disabling communications on or before the elections,

As with other Afrikan countries that have shut down communications, it seems the state telecommunications company, GAMTEL, as well as Gambia's Public Utilities Regulation Authority (PURQ) have been tasked with executing the Internet shutdown. In a letter dated 30 November 2016 addressed to Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, rights organization Access Now wrote that they *"urgently request that you ensure the stability and openness of the internet during the forthcoming elections in Gambia on December 1."* prior to the Internet being shut down in the country. Access Now Letter
Snippet of Access Now letter addressed to Gambia's President The organization further highlighted the importance of the Internet as part of democracy by further that *"the Internet enables free expression and the fulfilment of all human rights."*
"The Internet enables free expression and the fulfillment of all human rights."Access Now

The Gambia Internet shutdown continues a worrying trend across the continent which sees those in power using their authority to disrupt communications around election time in an alleged bid to further stay in power.

There have also been worries that Ghana, which holds elections next week, might disrupt communications too given the country's authorities making similar remarks about shutting the Internet down during elections earlier in 2016. Kenya's citizens have also raised concerns about their upcoming elections in 2017 and whether or not their government might shut down the Internet.

Not only do the Internet shutdowns violate citizens' freedom of speech, they have a massive financial implication as well. Ethiopia's shutdown earlier in 2016 reportedly cost the country $500,000 per day in lost GDP.

UPDATE

Internet access was restored on 2 December after incumbent Yahya Jammeh reportedly conceded defeat to his main challenger, Adama Barro.

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