Beninese folks will be electing their new set of leaders in a general poll today. Another interesting thing about the election is that the new parliament will have no opposition candidate.
The development has not gone down well with the West Africa nation’s rights and activists groups that have since warned of nationwide protests, some of which have already been contained by police forces.
Alert: Network data shows #Benin‘s leading internet provider Spacetel has been shut down as of 9:00 AM UTC on election day, after social media was blocked for several hours #BeninShutdown #KeepItOnhttps://t.co/Y94ipLiLsv pic.twitter.com/hszLZbH8Yf
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) April 28, 2019
A few weeks ago, Benin’s election committees ruled that only two parties allied to the nation’s current President Patrice Talon had met the requirements for participation in the polls, leaving people with no real choices.
It is worth noting that the nation, which, like Uganda, started taxing social media users who access apps such as Facebook and WhatsApp in September 2014 but dropped the model after a successful fightback, has reportedly blocked access to those services amidst a series of complaints regarding the elections.
This is not the first time an African nation has blocked access to social media platforms on the wake of questionable polls that are often marked by protests. The shutdowns, which are a fashion now, keep growing from time to time: there were 13 social media blackouts in the continent in 2017, which then grew to 21 in 2018. In some cases, the shutdown lasted a long time like Cameroon’s 230-day block.
It is obvious that the ubiquitous nature of internet services and social platforms has made it challenging for governments to impose gags on traditional media as it was the case in the past. The aforementioned taxes, or blatant shutdowns have become a norm to subtly contain protests (most of which are peaceful).
Without a doubt, other African nations will soon join the social media-blocking trend, particularly to thwart online protests.