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Dec 7, 2016

Gambia's Election Shutdown

Access Now recently reported that there have been over 50 Internet shutdowns around the world in 2016, compared to 15 known shutdowns the previous year. Many of these shutdowns have taken place in Africa - as seen in a recent Psiphon blog piece documenting a shutdown and social media blocking event in Gabon.

Last week, another shutdown happened in Gambia. Just after 9pm local time on November 30th 2016, we received a message from our friend Moses Karanja, a researcher at the research fellow at the Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Technology Law (CIPIT) in Kenya. Moses asked if we were able to verify reports he had seen on social media, saying that the Internet was unavailable in Gambia.


From our network monitoring, we could see that there had been a total drop-off in Psiphon traffic at just after 8pm local time. To verify this, we contacted Akamai’s State of the Internet team, to see if they had also seen a drop in traffic. Within a few minutes, they confirmed it for us, and tweeted to let the world know.
We followed this up with our own tweet, showing a similar effect on our network.


This outage occurred on the eve of the country’s presidential election on December 1st. The incumbent, Yahya Jammeh, had warned against people taking part in any protests that would follow an election he expected to win.

Following Jammeh's defeat in the election to Adama Barrow, the candidate chosen to represent seven opposition parties, Internet and telecommunication services began to be restored. The outage was expected to last into Saturday December 3rd, but instead was reversed by 11.30 on Friday December 2nd.

The reporting of the shutdown and confirmation at the network level came about due to close collaboration between the research community and the private sector, and helped to highlight the growing number of Internet shutdowns that are occurring across the world. For more information, read this piece from Moses Karanja, as he continues to track and document Internet shutdowns in Africa.