Somalia internet shut down after parliament votes to remove prime minister

Network data from the NetBlocks internet observatory confirm that internet has been cut across much of Somalia with high impact to Mogadishu from 10:30 a.m. local time (7:30 a.m. UTC) on Sunday 26 July 2020. Connectivity was largely restored on Monday afternoon, with a recorded incident duration of 31 hours.

On Saturday, Somalia’s parliament removed prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire from his post in a vote of no confidence. 170 of 178 MPs backed the motion against Khaire citing a dispute over the scheduling of elections.

Real-time metrics showed national connectivity levels at just 30% of ordinary levels during the incident, with most impact recorded in capital city Mogadishu. Journalists noted that the cuts limited news coverage of political reactions to Saturday’s events.

As the blackout continued through Sunday, the European Union joined the United States Embassy issuing a statement condemning the forced resignation as a setback for Somalia’s constitutional foundations.

The incident has nation-scale, non-total impact with indications of an intentional blackout affecting cellular and fixed-line networks. The disruption has not been conclusively attributed to any international technical outage or cyber-attack.

“After learning that the government had failed in its promise to prepare a clear plan that paves the way for one-person-one-vote elections in 2021 … parliament undertook a vote of no confidence against the government and its prime minister, Hassan Ali Khaire,” Mohamed Mursal, the Speaker of Parliament said in a statement to the press.

A preliminary analysis of sub-sea cable networks shows no ongoing international cable cut affecting multiple countries. Most, but not all, of Somalia’s leading business and residential service providers are understood to have been affected.

Sources tell NetBlocks that the political climate remains unclear in part due to the telecommunications outage. Somalia’s internet cut follows a multi-week internet shutdown imposed by authorities in neighbouring Ethiopia.

Has Somalia’s internet access been cut before?

A review of historic NetBlocks data shows no record of targeted nation-scale telecommunications blackouts since systematic record-keeping began, although social media are restricted during school exam periods. The country has experienced outages due to international cable incidents, which simultaneously affected several countries along the east coast of Africa.

A sub-sea cable outage affecting a single country, while technically possible, has not been reported in recent years and the circumstances that could lead to such an event are comparatively rare. Despite telecoms operators assertions that windy conditions might have caused Somalia’s internet to cut out, coastal weather records for Mogadishu show calm conditions and lower-than-average wind speeds at the time the disruption came into effect.

While investigations continue, the severity and extent of the present disruption are noted, as is its timing in view to the constitutional crisis and its impact on the ability of Somalis to receive and impart information.

Further reading:


Methodology

NetBlocks diffscans, which map the IP address space of a country in real time, show internet connectivity levels and corresponding outages. Purposeful internet outages generally have a distinct network pattern used by NetBlocks to determine and attribute the root cause of an outage, a process known as attribution which follows detection and classification stages.

A summary of data visualizations used in this report:

  • Network Connectivity (National): Internet providers and networks serving the affected region are visualized in a stacked time-series histogram to identify the start and end times of an internet shutdown event. Scales on the y-axis are adjusted to match localized maxima while minima indicate periods when networks became unreachable. The x-axis represents Universal Coordinated time (GMT+0).
    • Standard: Connectivity levels on the y-axis correspond directly to the observed number of reachable connections, as with National Connectivity charts.

NetBlocks is a civil society group working at the intersection of digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. Independent and non-partisan, NetBlocks strives for an open and inclusive digital future for all.

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