Due to violence that broke out after the popular opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to two years in prison, the government of Senegal has cut down mobile internet connectivity in some areas.
A statement from the government on Sunday said there was deadly rioting in which “hateful and subversive” messages have been posted online, hence, the need to cut internet services.
One of the deadliest outbreaks of civil unrest in Senegal’s history, three days of violent protests had resulted in 16 deaths.
The government restricted access to some messaging services last week, but many users were able to get around the restriction by using virtual private networks, which mask the user’s location.
The statement added that the outage was expanded on Sunday to encompass all data on mobile internet devices in specific locations and at specific times.
The statement did not, however, specify the locations or periods that were affected, although locals in Dakar reported being unable to access the Internet on Sunday afternoon, when demonstrations often start to pick up steam.
“Because of the spread of hateful and subversive messages…mobile Internet is temporarily suspended at certain hours of the day,” the statement said.
Sonko was sentenced on Thursday, and if the jail term is confirmed, he won’t be able to participate in the presidential election in February, which has led to unrest.
President Macky Sall‘s refusal to rule out vying for a third term has also infuriated protesters. The presidential term limit in Senegal is two.
Internet shutdowns to quell protest are widespread in Africa and go back to the 2011 Arab Spring, when authorities in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya tried to censor the flow of news. Since then, during periods of unrest, Gabon, Gambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and other countries have followed suit.