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Traders in Buloburde, Hiran, lose out in security shutdown of mobile phone network

A daily telecommunications shutdown for security purposes in Buloburde, in Somalia’s central region of Hiran, is causing disruption to local residents and traders huge, who have become reliant on the use of mobile money for normal business transactions.

Since November, the telecommunications network provided by Hormuud has been shut down by the authorities for six hours in the morning. This includes Hormuud’s EVC PLUS mobile money transfer platform that is widely used.

The authorities say they are trying to curb attacks by al-Shabaab militants. But shopkeepers complain that they are losing money.

Aday fidow, who runs a butchery, expressed her dissatisfaction saying the disconnection hurt business.

“Some of us women wake up early to start our businesses but the network disappears at 6 am. So we have no alternative but to give the meat to the customers on credit. The disconnection is a disadvantage to our business because we do not use cash and EVC Plus cannot operate without a network,” she said.

Buloburde traders stopped accepting the old Somali Shilling cash notes following claims of fake currency in circulation. The town ever since has revolved around mobile money.

Buloburde deputy district commissioner, Abdisalan Osman, told Radio Ergo that the authorities ordered Hormuud to comply with a network shut down for half a day each day in order to disrupt communications between Al-Shabaab operatives in the town, who may be planning attacks.

“Most IEDs [improved explosive devices] buried by Al-Shabaab operatives are remote controlled using the mobile network to activate detonation. We decided to shut down during morning hours while the security forces are searching for IEDs in the area,” Abdisalan said.

Nevertheless, the people in town continue to suffer in a different way. Abulay Hamud Subagle, a trader, said shops cannot do any business in the morning.

“We are forced to give the customers the goods on credit and wait until the connection restarts,” Abulay said.

The move has also affected the pastoralists coming to sell their livestock, as there is no cash in the town. If someone buys livestock, the herder must wait until there is the network in order to receive payments. Traders say this has sometimes led to heated arguments between pastoralists and other traders.

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