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Internet Shutdowns Mushrooms Across Africa

The last two years have been terrible for Internet access on the African continent, analyst Robert Besseling from EXX Africa for risk assessment, and the situation may deteriorate. Only in the last four weeks, no less than five African governments have temporarily closed Internet access due to political crises and turmoil.

Although this practice comes back a few years back, he says it has accelerated and hit countries relying on the internet to disseminate information and internet commerce, such as Zimbabwe.

"In 2018 we counted 21 closures across Africa, and so far this year, in the first three weeks of 2019, we saw closure in five countries: Cameroon again, as well as most respectable Zimbabwe, as well as during the Democratic Republic of Congo elections, and riots in Sudan, as well as shortly after attempting a state strike in Gabon, Besseling said.

These five nations have one common thing: recent political unrest. Closure of the Congo occurred during chaotic, controversial, long-delayed elections and controversial consequences. Fueling in Zimbabwe has led to violent protests, leading to even more violent attacks by security officials, followed by a disconnection of the Internet.

Congolese law activist Sylvain Saluseke – who lives in exile outside the country – says his fellow countrymen in the pro-democracy group of young LUCHA fought to break up while trying to carry out their mission of observing the December 30 poll and documenting the consequences,

"That was a big obstacle," he told the Voice of America. "Of course, besides, there were always these questions about how little we could transfer information or exchange information, and that's the only way to increase the risk if and when someone is arrested or someone goes into dangerous situations or risky situations."

FILE - A man checks his mobile phone in front of an internet cafe in Harare, Zimbabwe, on January 21, 2019.

FILE – A man checks his mobile phone in front of an internet cafe in Harare, Zimbabwe, on January 21, 2019.

Stopping the flow of information is the point of these internet breaks, says Edgar Munatsi of the Zimbabwean Association of Human Rights Officers. Other human rights groups have claimed the same thing, saying it is a tactic to cover the fierce violations of human rights that have happened – and is still happening – in Zimbabwe.

"In addition to just preventing people from organizing, there was a need for the media and the international community to obscure what was happening during the night and sometimes during the day," Munatsi told reporters. crimes committed during the night and during Internet closure. If you understand, most civil society leaders and activists in Zimbabwe are abducted during the night, and so far no one knows where they are, some of them. "

Besseling, who assesses the continent from a business perspective, notes that African countries are more likely to turn off or forcefully slow Internet services, as many African telecommunications companies are under state control.

Closing comes at a high price, he says.

– If you want to exclude the internet through the geographically economically important country, of course you can estimate a far higher price. In a country such as Kenya, for example, the price would be $ 6.3 million a day, in case the internet is closed across the country.

These losses come, he said, due to interruptions in information networks – such as stock price indexes and commodities available on the internet – and unavailability of e-commerce and electronic banking.

He said there are other losses that can not easily be quantified, such as getting reliable information about what is happening around you, or perhaps the most difficult of all, losing contact with loved ones in times of crisis.

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