Politics ruins everything, doesn’t it? People who long for power will do anything to get it and do even worse things to maintain it. Those of us lucky enough to be born on the African continent could tell stories for days.
Today we are talking about the Senegalese government blocking access to Tik Tok, of all apps. That’s a crazy sentence right there. The ridiculous app with the dance videos is somehow a threat to the stability of Senegal. Um, okay.
There has to be more to the story. Let’s track back to how they got there.
How we got to the Tik Tok outage
- Senegal is set to elect a new president in about six months’ time
- The ruling party has not announced a candidate yet but has confirmed the sitting president won’t run
- An opposition leader with a decent following was sentenced to two years in prison for inappropriate behaviour towards girls under 21, a crime many believe he didn’t commit
- He is yet to do that time but if he does, that would preclude him from running in the next elections
- The sentencing led to widespread rioting which has led to deaths
In response to the rioting, the Senegalese government limited access to some messaging platforms. You know, to stop the masses from coordinating riots.
The people got around this by using VPNs and the government countered by extending the outage to include all data on mobile internet devices in certain areas at certain times. The government said,
Because of the spread of hateful and subversive messages … mobile Internet is temporarily suspended at certain hours of the day
Senegal is not unlike Zimbabwe. Those with access to fixed internet are a minority, with the majority using mobile internet. So, the outage has been effective to a degree.
It’s not a total outage at all times and so people still get to use the internet when the government allows it. However, the government became concerned about people’s activities on Tik Tok and decided they were up to mischief and so revoked their Tik Tok privileges.
Hence the headline – Senegal suspends Tik Tok.
Said the minister of communications,
The TikTok application is the social network of choice for ill-intentioned people to spread hateful and subversive messages threatening the stability of the country
I guess Tik Tok is to Senegal what
Not so bad in Zim, huh?
For all our problems in Zimbabwe, it hasn’t gotten to the point of restricting access to Tik Tok or any other social media platform. That should be expected, sort of a bare minimum but looking at Senegal, it looks like it’s something we should celebrate.
The Zimbabwean elections are less than a month away now but we are sharing It’s giving Zimbabwe memes on Tik Tok without a care in the world. Senegal’s elections are half a year away and there are riots in the cities, mobile internet outages and Tik Tok bans.
What’s happening in Senegal does not sound crazy to Zimbabweans though. We have been there before. We have waded those waters multiple times in the past.
Back in 2019 we started by banning social media in response to protests sweeping the nation. Then we went on to shut down the internet. You may recall Strive Masiyiwa of Econet posting the message below:
This morning I was informed that the authorities in Zimbabwe have directed that all Internet services be shut down.
As it was a written directive issued in terms of the law, non-compliance would result in immediate imprisonment of management on the ground.
Last week we were issued with a similar order in the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC].
We complied as directed.Strive Masiyiwa on Facebook, 15 January 2019
This is an established African government tactic – people protest and you cut off their internet. Thankfully, it hasn’t been used in Zimbabwe in the lead-up to the 2023 presidential elections.