Gabon’s Risky Internet Shutdown, The World’s First Since 2011


Following contested elections on Aug. 27, Gabon has seen a crackdown as President Ali Bongo seeks to solidify his victory. The most visible sign of this was Gabon’s four-day internet shutdown, which has been followed by daily internet curfews from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. The situation in Gabon is therefore unique, in that it represents the first time since the 2011 Arab Spring that a country has implemented scheduled, continuous Internet curfews. The move has already garnered condemnation from the AU, EU, and UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon: indeed in 2011 the UN categorized blocking access to the internet a human rights violation.

Gabon’s infrastructure deficit has made it very easy for the government to throttle internet access, as many developing countries only have a single service provider. It is interesting that the government has decided to hamper Gabon’s internet; as a third of Gabon’s population lives below the poverty line, and only 10.3% of the populace has internet access to begin with. It should, however, be noted that the number of internet users in Gabon is outpacing population growth, at 3.9% and 2.19% respectively, as of 2014.

This internet crackdown in turn can be seen to be primarily focused on isolating those wealthier and better educated voters who may have supported Ping. Moreover, this curfew also acts to limit the amount of information leaving Gabon. This is vital if Bongo wishes to control the narrative internationally, as well as obscure any other forms of government heavy-handedness in the wake of the election. Read the full article in Afrikinsider here: