from DIDIER NDONG in Libreville, Gabon
LIBREVILLE – THE indefinite cutting of internet access after elections has exacerbated Gabon’s reputation for such shutdowns to curtail dissent.
The internet blackout was announced alongside the imposition of a nationwide nightly curfew from 19h00 to 06h00 following the presidential, legislative and local elections that were held on Saturday.
Officials claimed they imposed the restrictions to maintain security and combat potential online disinformation.
“This is to prevent the spread of calls for violence,” Rodrigue Mboumba Bissawou, the communications minister, said on state television.
The announcement came hours after Albert Ondo Ossa, the joint opposition candidate, alleged that the elections were marred by fraud.
He blamed this on the incumbent, President Ali Bongo Ondimba, and supporters of the ruling Gabonese Democratic Party (Parti Démocratique Gabonais or PDG).
It was not immediately clear when authorities would announce the results of the elections, which experienced delays after polling stations opened behind schedule, including in the capital Libreville.
“As it persists, the internet cut will likely cause significant telecommunications disruptions,” tech analyst, Brice Nzamba, said.
There are fears of demonstrations across Gabon over the coming days to denounce the election-related restrictions and demand the announcement of election results.
Clashes between demonstrators and security forces have not been ruled out.
In 2016, the release of presidential election results prompted widespread anti-government demonstrations, clashes, looting, arson and thousands of arrests.
Government responded by shutting down the internet.
Three years later, a similar restriction was imposed after a failed military coup.
Protests against COVID-19 measures led to another shutdown in 2021.
According to the Word Bank, Gabon is a leading ICT-connected country in Central Africa, with 134 mobile cellular subscriptions per 100 people.
President since 2009, Ondimba (64) is seeking a third term in the oil-producing country of 2,4 million people.
– CAJ News