News Brief

Benin Enforced an Internet Shutdown on the Same Day as Uncontested Elections

As a result, voter turnout was low Sunday in a country with 5 million registered voters.

Benin held parliamentary elections Sunday leaving citizens without access to opposition candidates and the internet.

Social media platforms including WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as well as Spacetel—Benin's leading internet provider—was shut down according to NetBlocks (a digital monitoring organization), Quartz Africa reports. VPNs were also blocked.

This makes Benin the latest African country alongside Sudan, Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo to restrict internet access ahead of pertinent elections, protests and dissent—which in turn impacts the democratic process the country is known to respect.


François Patuel, Amnesty International's West Africa researcher, has called on Benin authorities to lift the restrictions so that citizens can freely express their opinions on the elections.

"The decision to shut down access to the Internet and social media on an election day is a blunt violation of the right to freedom of expression," he says in a statement. "It is effectively silencing human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers who are monitoring contested parliamentary elections without opposition candidates."

The country's 5 million registered voters were only given two options to vote for on the ballot—two parties that have declared allegiance to President Patrice Talon. These parties also met the "requirements" to be included in the elections: pay a fee of about $424,000, according to BBC.

"All indications are...from election observers that voter turnout appears to be low. That's in huge contrast to 5 years ago, when people had 20 parties to choose from—now, they have two to choose from," Al Jazeera's Ama Boateng says from Cotonou in this video report. "Opposition parties have asked their supporters to stay at home, and that could be one of the reasons why we're seeing such low numbers."

(Photo by Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images)

Blitz the Ambassador Named 2020 Guggenheim Fellow

The Ghanaian artist and filmmaker is among 175 "individuals who have demonstrated exceptional capacity for productive scholarship or exceptional creative ability in the arts."

Ghanaian filmmaker Blitz Bazawule, also known as Blitz the Ambassador has been named a 2020 Guggenheim fellow.

The musician, artist and director behind he critically acclaimed film The Burial of Kojo, announced the news via social media on Thursday, writing: "Super excited to announce I've been awarded the Guggenheim 2020 Fellowship. Truly grateful and inspired."

He is among 175 scholars, "appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, the successful candidates were chosen from a group of almost 3,000 applicants in the Foundation's ninety-sixth competition," says the Guggenheim.

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Culture
Photo by Sabelo Mkhabela.

6 South African Podcasts to Listen to During the Lockdown

Here are six South African podcasts worth listening to.

South Africa has been on lockdown for almost two weeks as a measure to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and it looks like the period might just get extended. If you are one of those whose work can't be done from home, then you must have a lot of time in your hands. Below, we recommend six South African podcasts you can occupy yourself with and get empowered, entertained and informed.


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Photo courtesy of BLK JKS.

7 South African Punk Bands You Should Check Out

Here are some South African punk bands—old and new—that you should be listening to.

For many years, the punk scene in South Africa has been thriving through a hands-on DIY attitude in which bands can foster their own homegrown audience without relying on mainstream culture. Music festivals like Soweto Rock Revolution have played a big part in it. Bands like National Wake showed the way and TCIYF are following that path and making punk more relevant than ever in the country.

Here are seven South African punk bands you should check out.

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