The African Internet Rights Alliance (AIRA) vehemently condemns the ongoing internet shutdown in Senegal, implemented by authorities under the guise of maintaining public order. We call on the authorities in Senegal to immediately restore full access to the Internet and uphold their obligations to respect and protect the rights of all citizens.
The restriction of mobile internet services remains a flagrant violation of fundamental rights, including the right to freedom of expression, access to information and in this case, the right to peaceful assembly.
Until recently, Senegal has largely been regarded as a beacon of stability and democracy in West Africa with a history marked by peaceful transitions of power, a commitment to democratic principles and a track record of timely elections. However, we note that Senegal has recently been racking up a fast-deteriorating digital rights record following last year’s internet restrictions and that in fact, this is its third internet shutdown in 9 months. The Senegalese authorities must know that Internet shutdowns not only undermine democratic processes but also impede the exercise of basic freedoms essential to a functioning society. Despite the authorities citing reasons otherwise, it must be known that shutting down the internet in situations as this not only stifles dissent, but also hinders the ability of citizens to participate fully in their democracy.
Instances of internet shutdowns around the world have demonstrated the detrimental impact on democratic norms and human rights with significant consequences for civic engagement, economic activity, and social cohesion.
As Senegal attempts to resolve its political challenges, authorities must remember the country’s obligations under Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Democracy, Election and Governance – all of which they are a Signatory to. The Senegalese people must retain their ability to access information, engage in political discourse, and hold their leaders accountable. This is essential to the integrity of the country’s electoral process.
In light of these developments, the work being done by AIRA members around democracy, elections, and digital rights, especially in 2024, takes on heightened significance. We remain committed to taking collective action to defend internet freedom and safeguard democratic principles in Africa.