Sierra Leone post-runoff internet disruption was a total blackout: OONI



Reports emerged that Sierra Leone government had temporarily shut down the internet immediately after close of polls in the March 31 presidential runoff.


It turns out that it was a total blackout that lasted till morning of April 1, around 7am some reports suggested. There has been no official communication on what led to the measure and citizens still await results from the voting.


A global group that collects evidence on internet censorship, the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) had earlier on April 1 reported that there was a decrease in traffic from Sierra Leone.


They have since clarified that finalized google search data for the night of the 31st and 1st of April, “we can clearly see that in Sierra Leone there was a total internet blackout on the night of the 31st.”


An election monitoring group Sierra Leone Decides cited people in the telecoms industry as confirming the shutdown and that it was to prevent the elections body from sharing results data to party representatives.


The runoff was between the ruling All Peoples’ Congress (APC) led by Samura Kamara and main opposition Julius Maada Bio of the Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP). Maada Bio won the first round but failed to secure the 55% threshold for a first round win – 16 candidates were on the March 7 ballot.


Sierra Leone thus joins other African countries such as Uganda, Republic of Congo, Niger and The Gambia who all disrupted network connections during the last presidential polls.


Elsewhere in Africa, presidential polls have been successfully held without any disruptions. Ghana, Rwanda, Angola, Kenya and Liberia all held polls with the internet on.


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