The self-declared republic located northwest of Somalia is set to have its presidential elections come Monday, November 13, 2017. The breakaway region’s electoral commission has asked mobile service carriers in the region to block over a dozen social media platform.
The Somaliland electoral commission has identified Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google Plus, Snapchat, Duo, LinkedIn, Flickr, and Viber among others, as social networks that the carriers should block.
The commission has asked the carriers to block the social network platforms immediately after the Monday elections, until the day the results are announced. The commission argues there are “external forces” hell-bent on spreading “inciteful and tribalistic” information around Somaliland. The commission has expressed its frustrations in controlling the proliferation of these messages.
Although the commission through spokesperson Said Ali Muse allayed fears that the internet will be completely shut down during the voting exercise. Muse said this to calm the fears expressed by businesses and other citizens who need the internet for other uses.
“As the election commission, we have given telecommunication companies an order to block social sites, and they have agreed to it,” said Muse.
Internet and Social Media shutdowns are becoming rampant across Africa during the electioneering seasons. This trend emerged in 2015, and it is often done by governments with an incumbent president trying to secure another term in office.
Last year alone, some 11 countries disrupted normal internet and social media services just before, during, and after crucial elections. We saw this happening in Uganda elections, national exams season in Algeria, and anti-government protests in Ethiopia just to name a few.
This year, Cameroon placed a 93-day blackout in regions of the country with a population that predominantly speak English. Togo shut down the internet after a protest against President Faure Gnassingbe broke out.
Somaliland seceded from Somalia in 1991, and compared to the rest of the horn of Africa region; it can be said it has been a region of commendable stability though it has a small population of about 3.5 million people. Somaliland also has relatively strong institutions that have demonstrated capacity to conduct free and open elections.
Since it parted ways with the greater Somalia, it has had a number of election with the defeated incumbents conceding defeat and ensuring a peaceful transfer of power. To mark their devotion to an open and democratic electioneering exercise, this year’s elections was kicked off by a presidential debate. Where three candidates vying to replace the incumbent Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo debated on national TV to over 700,000 voters.
The election commission is also said to be using iris recognition technology to identify voters in the registry. However, the commission’s move to block social media is already watering down the positive name Somaliland as a country has created for itself over the years. No doubt the social media block will have an impact on short-term activities of business who rely on the platform for marketing and communicating with customers.