A week after shutting down the internet for the second time in two months, the Senegalese government is arresting people selling Starlink in the country for “illegal provision of internet access and irregular marketing”. 

On Monday, the Senegalese government arrested five people for selling Starlink terminals without the required licence or authorisation. The five people arrested by the Department of Urban Security of the National Police face up to five years imprisonment and a fine of 60 million CFA ($100,000). The telecommunications regulatory authority has also issued a warning for any service providers marketing Starlink and any other company with similar activities to immediately cease all service throughout the country.

Starlink is an internet system developed by SpaceX, an American private space exploration company founded by Elon Musk, that delivers speeds of up to 150Mbps with only a clear view of the sky needed. Its terminals would allow the Senegalese to access the internet via satellite, thereby bypassing the need for a telecom operator. Thus, if the government decides to suspend the internet again, Starlink users would still be able to connect to the internet. However, according to Starlink’s website, the internet service provider is unavailable in Senegal. 

This arrest follows a series of clampdowns by the Senegalese government, which has restricted internet access on multiple occasions to control its citizens. Last month, the government restricted access to the internet after protests erupted when Ousmane Sonko, a popular opposition politician, was arrested. The government also suspended internet access last week after Sonko was rearrested. 

After the ban was suspended last week, the government suspended TikTok because it is “favoured by people with bad intentions to spread hateful and subversive messages,” according to Moussa Bocar Thiam, the country’s minister of communications, telecommunications, and digital economy. 

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