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Internet disconnection in Somalia appears intentional

Sunday July 26, 2020

Mogadishu (HOL) -  Internet connectivity across much of southern Somalia has been cut off on Sunday, according to local residents and an independent group that investigates digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance.

Netblocks said that their network data recorded that the internet was cut at 10:30 am local time, with most of Mogadishu offline.

The internet cutoff comes just one day after Somalia's parliament removed PM Hassan Ali Khaire in a vote of no-confidence.

Somalia's main international partners, the U.S. and the European Union have both criticized the move as unhelpful in a fragile political environment.

Netblocks says that a preliminary analysis of the sub-sea cable networks shows that the disconnect was not a result of an accidental cut, suggesting that the service cut was intentional.

"The ongoing incident has nation-scale impact consistent with an intentional blackout affecting cellular and fixed-line networks, and is not attributed to any international issue, technical outage or cyber-attack."

In a statement, Hormuud, Somalia's largest telecom service provider, offered a different explanation. Hormuud said that windy conditions on the Indian ocean caused the blackout.

"We regret to inform you that our internet service has been interrupted since around 10:00 am EAT. Our early assessments suggest that the submarine cable sustained a shunt fault after windy conditions caused Somali shores of the Indian Ocean to become very rough and turbulent."

It added that maintenance crews are working to restore connectivity.

The Internet advocacy group said that their data shows this is unprecedented in Somalia.

"A review of historic data shows no record of nation-scale telecommunications blackouts since systematic record-keeping began. The country has experienced outages due to cable incidents, which were attributed and reported as technical failures by NetBlocks."

In June 2018, a commercial cargo ship cut an underwater fibre-optic cable effectively putting much of southern Somalia in an internet blackout. Officials at the time said the outage was costing the country $10 million a day.

Cutting off the internet is not unprecedented in Africa. Across the continent, authorities have disrupted connectivity during a state of emergencies, government protests or national exams. Since 2007, when Guinea's former president Lansana Conté ordered a shutdown following demonstrations calling for his resignation, 26 out of 54 African countries have directly ordered network disruption


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