Amidst ongoing national elections, the central African nation of Gabon is grappling with a third day of internet shutdowns, a move made by authorities to control information dissemination during the election period. The country is currently witnessing a pivotal election between President Ali Bongo Ondimba, who is seeking a third term, and former education minister Albert Ondo Ossa.
Communication Minister Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou announced curfews and an indefinite internet shutdown while votes were being counted, citing the need to prevent violence and the spread of false information. This action has affected more than a dozen internet providers and networks, according to Alp Toker, director of internet access monitor NetBlocks, who highlighted the strategic chokepoint employed for the shutdown.
The internet blackout in Gabon coincides with a broader set of restrictions, including a temporary ban on international news media and the closure of international borders. The blackout comes in the wake of allegations of election fraud and irregularities during President Ondimba’s previous reelection in 2016.
Voters expressed concerns over issues with polling offices and the potential for post-election violence. The curfews, internet shutdown, and media bans have created an atmosphere of uncertainty for both citizens and businesses in the country. This shutdown is part of a broader trend in Africa, where various countries have previously resorted to internet shutdowns for political purposes.
Gabon’s internet blackout joins a list of similar actions taken in countries like Zambia, Congo, Uganda, Tanzania, and others. Despite human rights leaders’ calls for including rules against internet shutdowns in the UN Cybercrime Treaty, such proposals were rejected during recent negotiations. The situation in Gabon remains tense, with officials yet to announce the election results or the timeline for restoring internet access.