Mauritania Shuts Down Internet During Elections

July 12, 2019

Africa was shafted by colonial powers and now the continent is shafting itself with corruption from its numerous countries. Africa remains home to some of the poorest nations on Earth and according to Quartz, many of these countries habitually shut down the Internet in “Mauritania Blocked The Internet Over Protests Though Just One In Five People Are Online.” Countries that have shut off the Internet include Liberia, Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, and Algeria. More recently the Sudan shut off lines when protesters demanded president Omar al-Bashir leave office and wanted an end to military rule. Ethopia cut their surfing power to curb cheating on exams and when there were rumors of a coup. The African Internet gets turned off for numerous reasons, mostly due too political ties: elections, government protests, and political referenda.

Mauritania took its turn to shut down the Internet amid its contested election. People hoped the election would be the first peaceful transfer of power since the country gained its independence in 1960. When the results were tallied the ruling party won by 52%, but opposition challenged the results. The government suspended mobile and fixed-Internet lines. It points to the government being afraid of any opposing force and using extreme measurements to maintain control. Most African governments do not offer explanations, but some explain it away as limiting hate speech, fake news, and violence.

Mauritania is indicative of the problems around the entire continent:

“Campaigners say the shutdown in Mauritania is only exacerbating the situation and preventing journalists, human rights defenders, and opposition groups from freely accessing and exchanging information. Mauritanian television also broadcast foreigners from neighboring countries confessing to ferment trouble following the polls—a “toxic and highly problematic” issue, activists say, in a country still battling racial discrimination and the vestiges of slavery.”

Freedom of information and communication is key to a democratic society and gives power to people. Heavy handiness might have its need in times of war, but during elections in a country that is supposed to be democratic it is a sign of societal changes.

Whitney Grace, July 11, 2019


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