Port Sudan / Khartoum — Zain’s telecommunications and Internet service returned for a short while to Port Sudan yesterday evening after a day-long outage, while Sudani and MTN continued to be cut across the country for the third day.
A listener reported to Radio Dabanga from the Red Sea state capital Port Sudan this morning that he managed to pay for a ticket online within the short time Zain services returned yesterday evening. “This morning, Zain had disappeared again.”
A source in Rabak, capital of White Nile state, reported that the Zain network “has been far from stable in the past couple of days”.
The Sudanese Telecommunications and Postal Regulatory Authority (TPRA) yesterday accused the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) of shutting down work at the data centres of the El Sudani and MTN providers since Saturday.
In a press statement, the TPRA also accused the RSF of forcing Zain technicians to stop its services in River Nile State and the Red Sea state capital of Port Sudan, where the de facto government and most organisations moved to after the war between the Sudanese army and the RSF erupted in April last year. The RSF allegedly threatened to stop the Zain services in the entire country.
The data centres of communications providers Zain, El Sudani, and MTN are located in central Khartoum that came under control of the RSF on the first day of the war, April 15.
The authority stated that the disruption of the Zain communications and Internet network in Port Sudan caused “a complete paralysis in the issuance of passports and banking transactions”.
It further noted the suspension of a communication blackout for months in the western parts of the country. “Communications there have been suspended in several Darfuri cities and towns because of burned wireless towers, fibre vandalism, power cuts and fuel shortages.”
The Sudanese Fikra organisation on Sunday noted the “disastrous consequences” of the “complete mobile and internet blackout in multiple areas” in the country, as the Internet forms “a lifeline for millions of Sudanese civilians both in and out of the country who depend on it for humanitarian relief and money transfers as a means of survival”.
Many Sudanese accuse the RSF of being behind the current interruption of the El Sudani and MTN services.
Mohamed El Mukhtar, legal adviser to RSF Commander Mohamed “Hemedti’ Dagalo, denied the accusations, saying that the El Sudani and MTN companies announced this weekend that the services were stopped as a result of technical failures and that they are working to address it.
In an interview with Radio Dabanga, El Mukhtar accused the Sudanese Air Force of bombing vital sites and infrastructure, including telecommunications companies’ headquarters and towers, in Khartoum state and surroundings. “They bombed the El Jeili oil refinery four times.”
The months-long blackout in large parts of Darfur and Kordofan is also a result of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) destroying wireless towers while bombing RSF positions, he said.
Regarding the accusations by the TPRA, the RSF advisor reacted by saying that the authority is affiliated with the army. “The accusations are politically motivated because the SAF commanders are linked with members of the former Al Bashir regime” he stated. “Moreover, we wonder about the reasons why the TPRA did not issue statements about the blackout in Darfur and Kordofan.”
He ridiculed the accusation of the RSF of forcing technicians to cut off the services to Port Sudan and River Nile state. “We do not target our people. The RSF controls the areas of the telecommunication companies since the outbreak of the war. If we had wanted to cut of telecommunications and Internet services, we would have done it from day one.”
Communications and internet networks in large parts of Darfur have been cut off for months by the ongoing war, and parts of Kordofan, especially southern and western Kordofan, have been cut off for more than a month.
People in large parts of Darfur and Kordofan are now using the Starlink satellite service, though the connection costs for one hour range from SDG1,000* to SDG3,000.
* The middle rate of the US Dollar at the Faisal Islamic Bank in Sudan today stands at SDG1,104, while the greenback yesterday traded on the parallel market for SDG1,170 to SDG1,200.