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Some Mobile Internet Services Restored in Sudan

Some Mobile Internet Services Restored in Sudan

Tuesday, 9 July, 2019 - 18:45
People celebrate after the military council and opposition groups reached a power-sharing deal during a transition period leading to elections, along the streets of Khartoum, July 5, 2019. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Mobile internet services were partially restored across Sudan Tuesday following a court order, ending weeks of blockade imposed by the ruling military council.

The blockade was imposed in wake of a brutal crackdown on protesters.

The blackout resulted in a “near-total loss of access” for mobile and fixed line connections for most ordinary users, according to digital rights NGO NetBlocks.

Users had hoped the internet cut would end after the military council and civilian opposition announced a deal on Friday for a three-year power sharing arrangement.

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 mobilization 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.

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," Hassan 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 and Sudani networks were restored, but not on Zain, 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.

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 longtime ruler 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 mobilize tens of thousands of demonstrators.

The generals and protesters last week 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.

NetBlocks estimated that the disruption had been costing Sudan more than $10 million a day.

United Nations human rights experts on Monday described the shutdown, which has affected humanitarian operations in the country, as a clear violation of international human rights law.

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