Internet shutdown in Senegal ahead of protests over vote delay

The government of Senegal decided to halt internet access in the country, in order to curb a march against the vote delay.

On Tuesday, mobile operators received orders from Senegal’s Ministry of Communications to cut off internet access, ahead of a silent march planned by activist groups.

The march, which authorities had forbidden, aimed to express dissent against the unexpected delay of a presidential election that was supposed to take place on February 25.

The postponement, announced only a few weeks before the expected vote, sparked violent confrontations last week that resulted in the deaths of three people and many arrests.

Despite the Parliament’s choice to move the election to December 15, opposition members have raised concerns about the prolongation of President Macky Sall’s term, deviating from Senegal’s democratic standards.

The future of the march is unclear after authorities banned it on Monday, invoking logistical difficulties. A press conference is set for later on Tuesday, where the civil society and religious groups behind the protest will announce their next steps, as per spokesperson Amadou Samb.

The delay of the vote has caused widespread dissatisfaction in Senegal, regarded as one of West Africa’s more stable democracies. This feeling is especially relevant in a region where democratic institutions have encountered obstacles due to military coups and constitutional changes in recent years.

The Ministry blamed the recent violence and property destruction during protests on hateful online messages. In the capital city of Dakar, riot police wearing protective gear used tear gas, stun grenades, and apparent rubber bullets against protesters who lit fires and threw stones.

Amnesty International and the UN human rights office have called on the Senegalese government to probe the killings and cases of police violence against protesters. At least 266 people, including journalists, have been held across the country, as stated by Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

In response to the political situation, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sent a parliamentary diplomatic mission to Senegal on Monday for talks.

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