Burundi: Media website Inaccessibility, Technical Problem or something worse?

27 October 2017


The websites of some Burundian media are currently inaccessible from Burundi. For experts in the field who have been contacted, it's a real cause for concern.

Since October 10, access to Iwacu website has been disrupted in Burundi, not say that it has been blocked. The same is true for other media, particularly Ikiriho, an exclusively online newspaper. Is it a technical problem, hacking or blockage?

None of Burundian operators in the field of computer wants to express themselves openly. They are not able to explain the phenomenon.

They view the situation like anybody else. They recognize that the problem is unfamiliar to them and say they are short of explanations.

However, the message that appears on the screen when a user attempts to access the site gives room for a kind of blockage. This one today: "The site you were looking for does not exist", and that at the beginning: "The site you are accessing belongs to user-defined category. Anyone will easily understand that the site has been closed.

On the sly, all the suppliers contacted still agree on one thing: the solution must come from BBS (Burundi Backbone System). The latter is an infrastructure operator, particularly specialized in the technical exploitation and marketing of very high-speed networks. Many suppliers favor it.

Some speak of the possibility of a blockage for the control of the media. If necessary, this operator is responsible. "No one else is in a position to do so," says a supplier on condition of anonymity.

He also said his company has the ability to unblock the situation before adding: "However, I cannot do it all the more because the company uses the infrastructure of the one that is the origin of all this".

Our source says he fears the measures that would follow. "Otherwise, it's simple. It is a blockage filter." He adds that there is a way of bypassing through a proxy connection:" Securing the connection by a proxy server. "It makes it possible to change the identifier of the country of connection by that of another. This means that there is a blockage in Burundi.

BBS refutes the accusation. Claude Nkurunziza, head of the Internet Monitoring Center, says it's a lie. For him, if there is a blockage, it will not be for a part of suppliers. "That is not possible."

Mr. Nkurunziza says the blame should be put on the providers whose customers' interests are harmed: "Spidernet and EconetLeo." Lumitel has no contract with BBS. For a source within Lumitel that spoke on condition of anonymity, the problem is known. However, he kept mum. "It's sensitive."

The director of the Telecommunications Regulatory and Control Agency, Donatien Manirampa, is aware of the problem. As to the possibility of censorship, the agency has no jurisdiction to do so. "We are in charge of all that is related to the technique. The National Communication Council (CNC) is best placed to answer to this question".

Aimée-Divine Niyokwizigirwa, vice-president and spokesperson for CNC, refrained from commenting. Contacted this Thursday, October 19, she laconically said: "I do not know."

For further clarification, Iwacu newspaper has got the opinions of foreign website hosts. A French host, who preferred anonymity, put forth filtering track. "This seems to be a blockage at the level of your operator. You have got to get closer to its technicians to see this. "

Spidernet, Leo and Lumitel are the suppliers whose customers are most affected. Media representatives whose internet connection is supplied by other providers, Onatel in particular, say their websites are accessible.

Source: Iwacu

Written by Egide Nikiza and translated by Pierre Emmanuel Ngendakumana