Internet shutdown as Sierra Leone votes
Sierra Leone’s telecom regulatory body, NATCOM, has denied claims it shut down internet access ahead of the country’s presidential elections.
The first round election on 7 March failed to produce an outright winner with no candidate securing 55% of votes as required by local electoral laws. A run-off election was called for Saturday 31 March.
As counting started, internet access to major service providers went down for several hours raising suspicion among the public, some of whom believe the incident was an attempt by the incumbent candidate to restrict the flow of information.
The country’s regulator NATCOM denied having blocked or terminated internet access countrywide and emphasised that connectivity is provided to the country via the Sierra Leone Cable Company (SALCAB). This company manages the country’s connection to the Africa Coast to Europe submarine cable.
NATCOM has released a statement explaining that it neither provides ICT services nor operates a network.
It added that it had been informed by SALCAB that the service disruption was traced to a submarine cable issue in Mauritania.
“The Commission also wishes it to be made known that it has not at any time ordered any network to block or suspend any of its services to the public. As a matter of fact, services of the Commission have also been disrupted during this period.”