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AT IT AGAIN

Sudan shuts down the internet after a military coup

A Sudanese man holds his phone with restricted internet access social media platforms, in Khartoum, Sudan
Published

Sudan’s ongoing internet blockade in the aftermath of a coup on Monday, Oct. 25 could persist for longer as previous trends in the crisis ravaged African country show the military extending connectivity outages for more than one month.

The United Nations has meanwhile condemned the “ongoing military coup in Sudan” and has demanded that “the internet and other services” such as international flights be restored. This comes as the military in Sudan has declared a state of emergency, dissolved the cabinet, and arrested the prime minister.

Civic organizations said the internet shutdown was a violation of freedom of expression and access to information rights, a violation that is becoming frequent across Africa during critical moments such as elections and protests.

Under a transitional authority after the ouster of Omar al-Bashir in 2019, Sudan has tipped into political uncertainty after security forces rounded up several of the civilian-led interim government in a coup on Monday.

Protests have so far claimed the lives of seven people in addition to 140 injured others in Sudan’s second coup in two years. Civic groups are calling for further protests to resist the military take-over of power.

Analysts at Oxford Economics Africa say the Sudanese military’s blockade of the internet and access to the capital, Khartoum, “puts the transition to democracy on the line.” Sudan’s democratic transition processes such as organization of elections and constitution making are now under threat, with the military having declared a state of emergency.

Hussein Malik, a political analyst with Malik Solutions Group, noted on Twitter on Tuesday that the arrests of Sudan’s civilian leaders “and torture” had been extended to “protesters, influencers, and community organizers as the protests continued to gain” momentum.

African governments are increasingly turning to internet shutdowns to silence dissent

“Internet and telecommunication services were disconnected for most of the day…to prevent dissemination of the violent act on news outlets and social media. We are deeply concerned that the army and its co-perpetrators will resort to more violence,” writes Malik.

Netblocks, which monitors internet and social media blockades around the world, confirmed the disruption to internet and social media services in the African country, highlighting “the incident, ongoing as of Tuesday” morning. It said “cellular and some fixed-line connectivity on multiple providers” had been affected.

Sudan is the latest in the region to disrupt internet connectivity after Eswatini also asked mobile operators such as MTN to block access to Facebook and Facebook Messenger as anti-government protests raged. Another firm that monitors internet service disruptions, Cloudflare, said that, “When comparing today with the last seven days’ pattern, we see that today’s drop is abrupt and unusual…The shutdown affects all the major ISPs from Sudan.”

It highlighted that “there were no signs of the Internet coming back at 18:00 local time” as of Monday.

Apart from the internet shutdown—which many believe is being used to shield developments in the country from international scrutiny—local telecom services such as some mobile networks are also reportedly currently non-functional although international calls are said to be going through.

In 2018, Sudanese authorities cut off access to the internet for 68 consecutive days to quell protests that culminated in the military coup the following year. In June and July of 2019, Sudan was plunged into “a more extensive mobile internet shutdown” for 36 more days, costing the country as much as $2 billion.

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