Internet on mobile services restored in Sudan

Wednesday July 10 2019

Sudanese demonstrators

Sudanese demonstrators gather during a rally outside military headquarters in Khartoum on April 16, 2019. Internet services have been restored in the country. PHOTO | ASHRAF SHAZLY | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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KHARTOUM,

Mobile internet services were restored across Sudan Tuesday following a court order, weeks after the ruling generals imposed a blockade in the wake of a brutal crackdown on protesters.

Demonstrators were violently dispersed on June 3 by men in military fatigues, who stormed a weeks-long protest camp outside army headquarters in Khartoum where Sudanese had camped to demand that the generals step down.

Armed men, shooting and beating protesters in a pre-dawn raid, killed dozens of demonstrators and wounded hundreds.

Days later internet on mobile phones and fixed land connections was cut across Sudan, with users saying it was done to prevent further mobilisation of protesters.

Khartoum-based lawyer Abdelazim al-Hassan filed a case against the blockade, urging a court in the capital to order telecom company Zain to restore the internet services on his own mobile phone.

VOICE CALLS

Days later internet on fixed land connections was restored, but the mobile 3G and 4G services remained cut.

"I returned to court and said that numerous clients of Zain and other telecom companies were impacted due to the cut," Hasan told a news conference on Tuesday.

"Today, the court issued an order to Zain and to MTN and Sudani to restore their mobile internet services," referring to three telecom companies.

Later on Tuesday the internet services on MTN, Sudani and Zain networks were restored, users said.

Several subscribers of MTN and Sudani contacted by AFP confirmed they were able to make voice and video calls through social media networks like the WhatsApp messaging platform.

"I'm still not happy because this should not have been done," said Marwa Abdelrahim, a lecturer at Ahfad University for Women in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman.

"The government has no right to hold the country as hostage."

QUELL PROTESTS

Protesters and rights group say the internet blockade was an attempt to quell protests against the generals, who had seized power after the army ousted veteran president Omar al-Bashir in April following nationwide protests against his rule.

For the generals the internet and social media had become a threat as protesters used online social media apps to mobilise tens of thousands of demonstrators.

"Regarding social media, we see during this period that it represents a threat for the security of the country and we will not allow that," General Shamseddine Kabbashi, spokesman of the ruling military council, said last month.

But last week the generals and protesters reached a deal to form a joint civilian-military ruling body, which would install a new government and parliament for a transitional period of little over three years.

The agreement between the two sides is expected to be formally signed in the next few days.