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Tanzanians criticize government for blocking internet access on election day

Tanzanians criticize government for blocking internet access on election day


Unconfirmed reports circulating on social media indicate that the Tanzanian government imposed restrictions on internet access in the country on just one day of the general election.

A number of social media users in Tanzania have claimed that internet access on Twitter, WhatsApp calls and SMS messages have been blocked. The alleged internet restriction comes ahead of Tanzania’s presidential and general national assembly elections scheduled for tomorrow.

According to Kigogo on Twitter, the government has reportedly blocked access to Twitter in the country’s mainland and the tourist island of Zanzibar.

Another Twitter user, Dotto, claimed that WhatsApp is not accessible in his region of the country. Also on Twitter, Mtu accused the government of slowing down internet speeds across all social media. “They have already restricted the internet speed on Twitter and other social media,” she claimed.

Based on social media reports, it appears that the Tanzanian government has restricted access to certain apps and websites in the country ahead of tomorrow’s elections.

A few days ago, the government clamped down on mobile operators by ordering all carriers to suspend access to bulk SMS and bulk voice services. As per reports, individual SMS containing election-based keywords are being blocked from being sent to the intended recipients.

The timing of the government’s action may have been indicative of tighter restrictions on internet access.

Alternative VPN Blocking for Internet Users

In the wake of the alleged clampdown on the internet, many Tanzanians quickly turned to using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to access the internet. VPNs mask users’ Internet Protocol (IP) address, making their online activity almost untraceable.

Suggested reading: #EndSARS: 4 ways you can stay online while the internet is off

From the reactions on Twitter, it appears that Proton VPN is the popular choice among Tanzanian netizens to bypass the alleged restrictions.

However, VPN use is prohibited in Tanzania. In July, the current government passed a law banning the use of VPNs in the country, making it illegal.

What this means is that people using a VPN may actually be arrested if the government decides to take it up.

The Election Monitoring Group demands transparency

Amid reports of a partial internet shutdown, Tanzania Election Monitoring Organization (TEW) has urged the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) to remain transparent and impartial by enabling the free exchange of information throughout the election period.

In a letter to the TCRA, TEW noted that there are prevalent human rights and political concerns in the country that need to be addressed.

“The right of access to information is fundamental to any other rights related to effective participation in democratic processes including elections as stipulated in Article 13 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,” the letter stated.


Tanzania is not the first African country to restrict social media in preparation for and/or during elections. In 2016, the Ugandan government blocked internet access during the country’s presidential elections “as a security measure to avoid lies aimed at inciting violence and illegal advertising of election results”.

Authorities usually impose partial or total internet cuts at critical periods such as elections or mass protests to either suppress anti-government rhetoric or tackle disinformation. But while the latter is commendable, in many cases the government censors information to hide its questionable actions.

Featured image: The Open Society Foundations

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