Benin shuts down Social Media access to quiet down Protests amid Presidential Polls


Social media has given voice to the voiceless, and that is not something good for a dictatorial regime. In fact, it is a threat to such regimes, as it can act as a platform where people with the same view can meet up and in solidarity speak with a louder voice.

We have seen that in the Arab Springs where protesters unable to rely on mainstream media, turned to social media to group up and stage bigger protests. While calling out to more like-minded people to join in.

That is yet to be replicated in sub-Saharan Africa, where you get a couple of dictators holding on to power for over three decades; cough cough, Uganda. The West African nation of Benin on Sunday went to the polls, where citizens were supposed to elect their next cohort of leaders.

That election was marred with protests with no opposition candidate being on the ballot paper. Something that came about after the body that oversees elections in Benin approved just two political parties to field a candidate. Those two political parties are said to be allies of the incumbent President Patrice Talon.

Rights and activists groups have been claiming there is no real choice between the presidential candidates for the two parties approved to field a candidate in the elections. The political parties that did not get the green light to field candidates in this elections are said to be the ones having candidates whom a great number of Beninese think are the opposition and could possibly take power from the incumbent regime.

Blocking and Taxing Social Media usage

Uganda recently introduced taxation on social media usage; President Yoweri Museveni claimed people were going online to gossip. So to discourage its use, his administration thought it best to levy a tax. The tax is still effective to date.

The government of Benin started taxing social media usage back in 2014, but along the way, they dropped it. Both governments of Uganda and Benin are not sincere in their taxation of social media. Since they all face civil unrest with those holding power seem to be least popular than those in the opposition.

The two countries have also seen multiple protests from citizens calling for a change in the country’s leadership. Therefore, all these businesses of taxing or blocking social media are just tactics of a regime whose time is nearing an end trying to forestall the process a little longer.

On Monday, the US ambassador to Benin, Patricia Mahoney, said the upcoming elections were “neither fully competitive nor inclusive and do not reflect the Benin that we know”.

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