The first official Internet shutdown in Africa happened in February 2007 in Guinea, when former president Lansana Conte blocked access to Guinea’s four main Internet service providers. Prior to that moment, authorities simply resorted to arresting journalists or shutting down specific websites.
African governments use Internet shutdowns to silence opposition more and more but today, the situation is even worse as these shutdown disturbs the economy, hinder inclusion and deprived businesses access to digital markets —what can people do?
Currently, internet connectivity has been has been partially disrupted in Sudan throughout the morning of Monday 3 June 2019. The outages come amid reports of shots fired at protesters continuing sit-ins at Khartoum.
Unlike internet outages during the Sudanese uprising, this disruptions affect specific providers and compliance with any blocking order appears to be partial and focuses on mobile connectivity.
Monday’s disruption came as unverified reports circulated of new killings by state security forces in Zalingei, Darfur, more than 800 miles to the west of Khartoum.Last week, after government soldiers stormed the protesters’ sit-in in central Khartoum and left more than 100 people dead, Sudan’s network operators Sudatel, Zain and MTN switched off mobile internet access for customers. Same week, fixed line internet services for most offices and houses were also cut, plunging the country into near complete data darkness.
Connectivity appeared to return for some users with MTN as security forces stepped down the operation in the afternoon on Monday, however, most mobile internet users remain offline across Sudan. Sudan’s education and research network SUDREN is also currently totally disconnected.
Sudan internet blackout: Protesters exploring new ways to share information in Sudan
The Sudanese authorities extended its internet blackout into a second week, forcing citizens in Khartoum to rethink new ways to communicate as a bloodied protest movement regroups after a brutal crackdown.
The blackout is the latest in a series of controversial disruptions to internet services in Africa this year, where authoritarian governments are increasingly leaning on telecoms firms to shutdown communications services to disarm opposition movements or hide rights violations.
A spokesman for Sudan’s military leaders said the internet had been disconnected “for a limited time” but provided no justification. One of Sudan’s international mobile operators declined to comment via CNN, citing concern for the security of its staff if it discussed the disruption publicly.
The other operators did not respond to a request for comment according to reporters but a spokesperson for state-owned Sudatel said he had no information about any instructions from the government to shutdown services.
Meanwhile, Sara a student in one of the tertiary schools who has participated in the demonstrations since its inception reveals they’re finding new ways to share information. “Right now, everything is being done inside with little movements in the neighbourhoods,” “We’re are trying to minimise our activities but the good thing is that, most of us are coming up with new tools to share information,” she said.
SUDAN INTERNET SHUTDOWN BACKGROUND
In Sudan’s nascent revolution, which began last December with demonstrations against former President Omar al Bashir’s 30-year rule, internet access was as central as a sit-in outside the defence ministry in Khartoum that grabbed international attention.
Through December to April, Sudanese ISPs disrupted social media, censored media and frequently disabled nationwide connectivity as protesters took to the streets to drive president Omar al-Bashir out of power.Access to Twitter, Periscope, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp were restored in Sudan on Thursday 11 April 2019 as the leader stepped down following months of intense demonstrations, as show in network measurement data collected by the NetBlocks internet observatory.
During the longest disruption, Sudan cut social media for 68 consecutive days, with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp outages beginning 10 AM 21 December 2018 and lasting until February 26 2019, according to NetBlocks internet measurements.
The availability of unfiltered internet access and an end to political censorship remain essential for a successful transition to a civilian-led government.
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