June 7, 2023

Senegalese Man Killed After Pleading With Elon Musk For Starlink Access Amid Unrest

Elhaji Cisse

Tragedy struck in Senegal as a 26-year-old student, Elhaji Cisse, was killed shortly after pleading with Elon Musk for Starlink internet access amidst social unrest.

Senegal has experienced widespread protests following the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. As tensions escalated, the government imposed restrictions on social media and messaging platforms.

The restrictions limited the flow of information and communication, forcing tech-savvy citizens to use virtual private network (VPN) to connect to the wider world.

Elhaji Cisse

Elhaji Cisse, a 26-year-old student, was an active participant in the protests. Through his tweets, he warned his followers about security forces using live rounds and provided first aid tips for the wounded.

Frustrated by the internet restrictions, Cisse tweeted Elon Musk and his company Starlink, pleading for assistance in reconnecting people in Senegal to the web.

Hours later, around 9 pm, Cisse was shot on his way to the mosque to pray. His family was left devastated and awaiting the results of an autopsy, Reuters reports.

Starlink, powered by SpaceX and spearheaded by Elon Musk is a network of satellites that promises to provide high-speed, low-cost internet access to remote and underserved areas.

The service has already connected several African countries, including Mozambique, Rwanda, and Mauritius, and Senegal is scheduled to be connected later this year. Despite the potential of Starlink, Senegal faces various challenges in implementing the technology such as the high cost of installation and subscription fees.

Nevertheless, many welcome Starlink’s introduction to the African continent as an opportunity to bridge the digital divide and democratize internet access.

Internet shutdowns

According to Reuters, 16 people have died in what is now Senegal’s deadliest unrest in decades.

After first limiting access to certain messaging platforms, on Sunday, the Senegalese government announced it was expanding its suspension to include all mobile internet access in certain areas and at certain times. Internet watchdog NetBlocks also confirmed the suspension of mobile internet access in Senegal.

This is not the first time that Senegal has restricted social media to control protests. In 2021, authorities limited access to social media and messaging apps, in addition to measures targeting traditional media. However, NetBlocks reports that the new censorship measures are the most severe observed in the country to date.

Read: Iran Limits Social Media Access Amid Mounting Protests Following Death Of Mahsa Amini

“These restrictions … constitute arbitrary measures contrary to international law and cannot be justified by security imperatives,” said Amnesty International, as per Reuters.

Senegal’s government also faced a series of activist cyberattacks over the treatment of Sonko, which brought down several state websites and online platforms hosted on the government ADIE network earlier in the week.

According to Reuters, the government has since restored mobile internet access across Senegal.

Featured image credit: Reuters

Samara Linton

Community Manager at POCIT | Co-editor of The Colour of Madness: Mental Health and Race in Technicolour (2022), and co-author of Diane Abbott: The Authorised Biography (2020)