How Sierra Leonean Government Shut Down Internet, Telephone Services on Election Day

The government of Sierra Leone, on Saturday night, disrupted the services of all providers of telephone and internet services for over nine hours on a day the country’s citizens were voting in the presidential run-off election. The run-off poll, which held after a four-day postponement, recorded a very low voter turnout and caused the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to be accused of electoral malpractices by the ruling All People’s Congress (APC).

SaharaReporters correspondent reported that internet connectivity went off at about 9.45 pm local time. It was briefly restored till about 10.15pm before being shut down again for the whole night.     In addition, the government also blocked all telephone and text messaging services.

The disruption of communication services ensured that while counting and collation of votes were going on across the country, it was impossible for electoral officials to communicate among themselves.

At about 7.30 am on Sunday, both internet and telephone services were restored. However, the government is yet to officially explain why it restricted the services on election day.

It is becoming a common trend in Africa for governments to restrict internet services. In November 2016, the African Human and People’s Rights Commission  adopted a resolution on the Rights to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa (ACHP/Res.362), which calls on all states “to guarantee, respect and protect citizen’s rights to freedom of information and expression through access to internet services”.

Credit: Sahara Reporters

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