6 September 2016
The government of Gabon shut internet in the country on August 1 following the announcement of President Ali Bongo’s re-election by a slim margin for a second seven-year term.
Five days thereafter the internet was restored but not so for social media.
There was no official explanation from the government as to why the internet was blocked, but many believed that it was a way to stop citizens from reporting happenings during and immediately after the elections on social media.
Social media is one of the powerful tools Africans have used in the past 10 years to protest against unpopular government policies across the continent.
According to BBC AFRICA, there was an increasing tendency by African governments to block social media during elections, with research by the Portland Communications saying that African tweeters were more politically active on social media than in other continents.
While the internet remained banned, local TV stations chose to broadcast anything but news on the protests happening across the country.
Many governments do not have the technical capacity to block sites; they go about this by issuing an order to mobile phone operators who do have the capability.
Due to the vast majority of Africans using mobile devices to access the internet, the blocking of mobile network sites effectively blocks the internet.
The opposition in Gabon claimed that the elections were rigged, with the government manipulating poll results.
Many disgruntled opposition supporters took to the streets soon after the announcement of the results to protest against what they felt was an unfair election.
The post-election violence claimed several lives in Gabon.
The Gabonese internet outage was the longest country-wide blackout since Libya in 2011 during the Arab Spring, reports say.
Author: Timilehin Boyinde
Oluwatimilehin Boyinde is a research writer and a social media strategist. A public affairs analyst, he writes about history, politics, sports, life matters and technology. He is passionate about happenings in Local and international political arenas. He is an avid Manchester United fan and an unapologetic Nigerian.