Benin Shuts Down Social Media Access Amid Poll-Fueled Protests



Beninese folks will be voting for new leaders in a general poll that will take place today. The elections are particularly interesting because the new Parliament will have no opposition candidate, assuming the vote casting exercise will be carried out successfully.

The development has not augured 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.

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.