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HomeInternet & telecomsThe Safaricom Controversy: Analyzing the Conflicting Statements on Kenya's Nationwide Internet Outage

The Safaricom Controversy: Analyzing the Conflicting Statements on Kenya’s Nationwide Internet Outage

Following the release of contradictory statements regarding a nationwide internet outage on Tuesday, Kenyan telecom giant Safaricom is facing pressure.

Kenya’s Finance Bill 2024 is the subject of protests at the moment. The Finance Bill 2024, which had drawn harsh criticism due to the rising cost of living, was approved by Kenya’s National Assembly on Tuesday in a record-breaking two hours. In spite of the official boycott by opposition parties and the millions of ordinary Kenyans who protested in the streets and online, the bill was passed. This resulted in protesters against taxes laying siege to the parliament and gaining access to the House.

Kenya records internet outages amid a police crackdown

Significant internet outages occurred in the east African nation during the police crackdown on protesters. Internet Observatory Netblocks reports that this incident occurred the day after officials declared there would be no internet outages. “Confirmed: Live network data show a major disruption to internet connectivity in Kenya; the incident comes amidst a deadly crackdown by police on #RejectFinanceBill2024 protesters a day after authorities claimed there would be no internet shutdown,” the internet connectivity monitoring platform on X commented.

However, Safaricom claims that an outage on two of its subsea cables was the reason for this internet disruption. The Kenyan telecommunications giant said on Tuesday, “We have experienced an outage on two of our undersea cables that deliver internet traffic in and out of the country.” It mentioned that in order to reduce service disruptions, redundancy measures have been activated.

Uganda and Burundi are now experiencing internet outages, according to a Netblocks update. It stated, “Kenya has been affected by the ongoing internet disruption, as have neighboring countries like Uganda and Burundi; the incident is likely to limit coverage of events on the ground where protests are held.”

Safaricom under pressure as Telco faces accusations for the two-hour internet outage amid protests in Kenya

Safaricom reported an internet outage on Tuesday night as a result of an issue with one of its underground cables. The nationwide protests in the country against the now-retracted 2024 Finance Bill coincided with the more than two-hour-long disruption. Netblocks, an internet observation platform, refuted this assertion, claiming there was no proof of actual cable damage. Significant East African undersea cable providers, such as TEAMs, SEACOM, and Eassy, also failed to disclose any outages on their cables.

The outage was not disclosed by other internet service providers in the region. With the exception of Airtel Kenya, which reported intermittent but not entirely unavailable services. 

Customers were shocked by how fast Safaricom resolved the outage, given that it typically takes days or weeks to locate and fix undersea cable cuts. There might be possible reasons for this.

According to Techcabal, redundancies are frequently incorporated by telecom companies to manage outages. Services were restored after a brief period of time, which could be explained by Safaricom’s ability to divert traffic through other channels while they identified the main problem.

Customers and influencers in Kenya criticize Safaricom for an internet outage during protests against the Finance Bill

Customers and some of its biggest creative partners, including social media influencers, were dissatisfied with Safaricom’s disruption of the internet. 

Many people believe that the outage is an attempt to stifle disapproval of the bill and suppress communication. Influencers like Dennis Ombachi, Waceera Kieha, Adelle Onyango, Magunga, Muchiri Mike, and Muchiri Mike are using their platforms with a large number of followers to express their outrage, claiming that Safaricom’s actions directly helped the government silence its people.

In his declaration to boycott the telecom giant, well-known social media influencer Magunga didn’t hold back, saying, “Our lives and our sovereignty are greater than your paychecks,” and “I cannot, in good conscience, continue to associate myself with a brand that has turned its back on the very people it should protect.” He further said that Safaricom crossed the line by switching off the internet in the country so that the government could massacre people in Githurai, which was a point of no return.”

It was reported that many of them terminated their connections with the company, including Ombachi Dennis, a former rugby player and chef. Ombachi wrote on X, “I won’t be working with you, as your values are not aligned with mine.”

”The social media movement with hashtags and campaigns to boycott Safaricom is gaining traction as more people become enraged over what they see as the telecom giant’s betrayal.

Safaricom denies accusations and maintains that infrastructure hiccups are responsible for Internet outages

Safaricom, a telecommunications and mobile money service dominating the Kenyan market, refuted the allegations, claiming infrastructure glitches are to blame.

”The CEO of Safaricom, Peter Ndegwa, subsequently stated in a video statement on Wednesday, June 26, that a lower bandwidth was the reason behind the Tuesday internet outage that impacted not only the company but the entire industry. Along with offering condolences for the dead in the wake of protests, he also mentioned that Safaricom had voiced its opinions on the contentious Finance Bill 2024.

”Kenyans who blamed Safaricom for the internet outages on X (formerly Twitter) frequently backed up their accusations by claiming that customers of rival network Airtel Kenya were unaffected; however, Airtel Kenya later acknowledged that it had also been affected.

“Safaricom is reacting to public distrust following allegations that it gave security agencies access to customer data, which it refutes. The telecom said on Tuesday that it had not received a court order authorizing it to share customer data with any government agency and that it could only do so in response to one.

The telco’s share price is currently trading at KES 17.00 ($0.13) after declining 3.6% today.


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