Burkina Faso extends ban on mobile internet access amidst public outrage

The government of Burkina Faso has extended a countrywide ban on mobile internet access for another 96 hours. This is coming just days before opposition protests are set to take place.

The administration led by President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré , in a statement, said that the extension was granted under a legal clause related to national defence and public safety.

Authorities in the West African country made the declaration amidst the mounting public outrage over Islamist extremists’ serial killings in the country.

What led to the shut down?

The shutdown of internet access via mobile phone networks in the country began on Saturday, with the authorities citing a constitutional provision that allows for such. 

These laws relate to “the quality and security of networks and services, as well as the compliance of national defence and public security obligations.” 

The government suspended internet services over the weekend after hundreds of protesters gathered in Kaya to blockade a convoy of French military vehicles on their way to Niger. 

Many protestors were injured as French soldiers opened fire on a crowd of civilians, inflaming opposition to France’s military presence in the country. 

The public rage has been aimed towards France, which maintains hundreds of troops stationed in the region as a former colonial power but has been inefficient in combating the extremist attacks. 

The protests against the government and allied French soldiers broke out after suspected terrorists killed 49 military police officers and four civilians near the northern town of Inata on Nov. 14.

Many of the military police officers killed in Inata were buried on Tuesday in a ceremony that some of their family members and friends deemed demeaning.

The recent extension

The internet blackout was set to end on Wednesday evening. But the government prolonged it for another 96 hours, citing the same legislative requirement in a statement signed by a government spokesman, Ousseni Tamboura.

This, however, comes as a shock, as in a statement to reporters hours earlier, Tamboura offered a different explanation for the original internet outage.

“We thought that our nation needed silence … in order to make sure we were able to bury our soldiers in a dignified manner.” This restriction is linked strictly to that, ” he had said.

Lingering nationwide protests

In recent years, Burkina Faso has faced increasing security challenges and protesters are demanding that the president takes action or resign.

Burkina Faso’s President, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré

Opponents of President Roch Kabore have called for further rallies on Saturday to protest the government’s failure to contain bloodshed by militants from al Qaeda and Islamic State’s West African regional affiliates.

The November 27 Coalition, an alliance of opposition and civil society organizations, had previously called for nationwide rallies on November 27 to call on the government’s attention.

According to the coalition, the planned protests were aimed at demanding President Roch Marc Christian Kabore’s resignation over the country’s deteriorating security situation.

The impact of the ban on Burkinabes

The country’s ongoing internet outages have had a significant impact on the personal lives and businesses of the people of Burkina Faso.

In an interview with VOA, citizens complained about how the shutdown is impacting them and what they think of the government’s choice. 

A physician, Alexi Sawadogo, speaking outside a bank on one of the city’s busiest boulevards. claimed he was there to check his account balance because he couldn’t do so online due to the outage.

“It disconnects us from our friends who are outside the country, with whom we communicate regularly,” he says. 

He acknowledges that it is because of the French convoy that was blocked in the north, but argues that insecurity is not a viable explanation and that the government’s strategy has to be reviewed.

A university student, Ali Dayorgo, said the shutdown has affected his ability to work and learn the latest news. “I feel the anger of the youth,” he expressed.

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