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Report: Six African Countries Restricted Internet Access Due to Protests or Political Crisis

FILE - A vendor sells mobile phone credit cards on a street in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Nov. 3, 2022. Ethiopia, which had imposed internet shutdowns because of ethnic unrest in the country, recently lifted its restrictions.

NAIROBI, Kenya — A cyber security company says six African countries, including war-torn Sudan, enforced internet limits within their territory during the first half of 2023.

Netherlands-based Surfshark said that is twice as many nations as during the same months of 2022.

Surfshark recorded 42 new internet disruptions worldwide, nine of which occurred in Africa. Six countries — Ethiopia, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal, Sudan and Tanzania — accounted for those nine shutdowns.

Egle Grasys, a representative of Surfshark, said that each of the six countries had one or two different restrictions.

Ethiopia, which had imposed internet shutdowns because of ethnic unrest in the country, recently lifted its restrictions.

Restrictions remain in place in Sudan and are made worse by effects of the ongoing war, which has damaged infrastructure and cut off electricity in many areas.

Tariq Ahmed left Sudan three weeks ago and expressed the challenges he faced in communicating with his humanitarian colleagues in the western part of the country.

"I was trying to talk to my colleagues and staff in South Darfur and West Darfur state,” he said, “and I couldn't reach them either by call or internet ... to know how they are and how their families are doing during this difficult time and see the possibility of evacuating them to a safe place. So I couldn't reach them till one of them managed to cross the border into Chad, and then he called me by Chadian number on WhatsApp to tell me how it is and they have reached there safely."

Grasys said authorities in Africa shut down the internet usually in response to protests, conflict and political crisis.

"When the public is protesting and are unhappy with the government, social media and the internet is a great way to organize a gathering and try to gather more people to make a stand to protest,” he said. “Obviously, governments don't always support such demonstration. By shutting down the internet or restricting the internet, the government makes it difficult for the public to organize these demonstrations.”

Grasys noted that the restrictions not only prevent people from protesting but also stop them from spreading word of any protests to the rest of the world.