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Thursday February 22, 2024

Sudanese left in the dark by RSF-imposed telecoms blackout

An RSF source said on Feb 5 the paramilitary had nothing to do with the outages

By REUTERS
February 13, 2024
Sudanese greet army soldiers, loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan on April 16, 2023.— AFP
Sudanese greet army soldiers, loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan on April 16, 2023.— AFP 

CAIRO/DUBAI: A communications network blackout in Sudan, blamed on the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, has hobbled aid delivery and left the war-weary population of almost 50 million unable to make payments or contact the outside world.

The RSF has been fighting Sudan’s army for control of the country since April in a war that has killed thousands, displaced almost 8 million, and sparked warnings of famine.Four industry sources told Reuters that the RSF began shutting down the networks on Feb. 5, completing the blackout two days later.

After 10 months of conflict, the RSF controls most of the capital Khartoum and some of Sudan’s infrastructure that is based there, including the headquarters of the telecoms providers.

The RSF did not respond to requests for comment. An RSF source said on Feb 5 the paramilitary had nothing to do with the outages.

The sources said that RSF soldiers had threatened the blackout unless engineers restored service to the western Darfur region, which the RSF controls and which has experienced a blackout for months.

A telecom industry official blamed the situation there on lack of fuel and dangerous working conditions.Devices hooked up Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet system have proliferated, despite a government order against them, but most are in the dark in a country where smartphone use for most aspects of life was ubiquitous and many had access to WiFi or data networks.Commerce in Sudan has become largely reliant on e-wallets as income has dried up, belongings are stolen, and banks are stretched.