Cutting off communications and the Internet caused Sudan to be isolated from the world (Al Jazeera)

Khartoum -

On February 6, the Sudanese found themselves isolated from the world due to a breakdown in communications from their country.

The parties to the conflict in Sudan quickly exchanged accusations of responsibility for that interruption.

The Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs took the initiative to issue a statement in which it accused the Rapid Support Forces of cutting off the communications network and considered this a crime added to a series of other crimes, while the Rapid Support Forces denied any responsibility for the absence of the communications network, throwing the ball into the court of the Sudanese army.

After about a week, the crisis began to find its way to relief with the partial return of one of the 3 large companies active in the field of communications, while the others were still absent.

Al Jazeera Net opened the crisis file by talking to various sources about what happened and its effects.

Suffering has more than one face!

Marouf Abbas, a retailer in the city of Atbara, has a look of worry on his face.

For about 3 weeks, he has not been able to contact his large family residing in western Al-Jazeera State, which is witnessing fierce fighting between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces, due to the interruption of communications service in Al-Jazeera State and a number of other states in Sudan. Abbas is content with staring at his phone, waiting for relief.

Samia, who lives in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, learned of her father’s death about two days later, after one of her relatives was able to call via an international phone linked directly to satellites.

In Darfur, the service of sending letters without postage stamps was activated, according to journalist Muhammad Saleh Trico, who told Al Jazeera Net that hundreds of citizens in the city of El Daein in eastern Darfur have begun sending and receiving letters via buses and trucks that connect parts of Darfur, due to the interruption of the communications network in large parts of Darfur, and since days. The first for war.

On February 19, the Emergency Committee in the city of Khartoum Bahri announced that it would stop providing free meals to more than 30,000 people in the city due to its inability to attract financial donations. The reason also lies in the absence of a communications network and the cessation of financial applications that allow financial transfers. Half of the population in Sudan is suffering from food shortages due to the outbreak of war in April of last year.

This was the visible part of the mountain of Sudanese suffering due to the interruption of the Internet, but what was hidden was greater. Journalist Abdel Majid Abdel Hamid told Al Jazeera Net, "When the communications network returns, all the people of Sudan will discover the crimes and atrocities committed by the rebel militia gangs inside the villages of Al Jazeera State."

Abdul Hamid continues, "There are painful stories and bloody tales... killing, plundering, rape, displacement, and humiliation of men, women, children, and the elderly... What happened in the villages of the island is a humanitarian catastrophe added to the record of the rebel militia. These tragedies did not come to light due to the interruption of communications services."

The origin of the story: multiple narratives

According to 3 sources who spoke to Al Jazeera Net, the communications shutdown crisis began on February 3rd of this year, when a delegation from the Rapid Support Forces, including communications specialists, came to the headquarters of Zain Company, one of 3 companies working in the communications service, the fourth of which specializes in terrestrial Internet service, where the delegation inquired about The company's service has not reached Darfur since the beginning of the war, albeit due to directives from the Sudanese army.

The workers at the company’s center responded that the interruption of services was due to technical problems in the fiber optic network owned by Sudatel, in addition to other problems, as the network strengthening centers throughout Darfur needed maintenance, but due to the difficulty of maintenance crews reaching those areas, the company was unable to deliver the service to Darfur. .

The controversy ended with the Rapid Support Forces forcing Zain to cut off service to the Nile River State, next to the city of Port Sudan, because they believed that members of the Sudanese government and commanders of the Sudanese army were stationed in these areas.

The same delegation went to Sudani Telecommunications Company with the same questions, but the negotiations were not smooth considering that the government is a major shareholder in this company, and the matter ended with the company being forced to cut off communications from all parts of Sudan, and the same measure was imposed on MTN, the shareholder. The lowest in the Sudanese market.

According to an informed source, Zain, as a show of good faith, has initiated urgent measures to restore service to two Darfur cities: El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, which is still under the control of the Sudanese army, and the city of El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur state, which is under the control of the Rapid Support Forces.

But the joy was not complete

After about 48 hours, Zain company followed its two companions, where it stopped service and Sudan entered into complete darkness in the world of communications. A senior source in Zain company who asked to conceal his identity explained the matter to Al Jazeera Net by saying that his company refused to submit to any blackmail or conditions by the Rapid Support Forces and preferred to initiate radical treatments. what ever the price.

MTN continued to provide a limited service within Khartoum State and to a limited segment of its subscribers, and a fourth company specializing in terrestrial Internet continued to provide its services to government institutions and banks in a number of major cities, including Port Sudan, which has become an alternative capital.


The interruption of communications and the Internet in several areas exacerbates the suffering of civilians.

The interruption of communications in large areas of Sudan has caused a complete paralysis in many economic activities, and has clearly affected the daily lives of most Sudanese who are suffering from the scourge of the ongoing war, amid the exchange of accusations between the two sides... pic.twitter .com/31qjqDr0x1

- Al-Youm Channel (@alyaum_news) February 20, 2024

The army is in the dock

It has become certain, according to identical sources, that the Rapid Support Forces have cut off telecommunications service through their control of Khartoum, which contains the main divisions of telecommunications companies, in order to put pressure on the government and the army leadership and make them appear weak before Sudanese public opinion and stakeholders on the one hand, and on the other hand to force telecommunications companies. To strive seriously to restore services to the Darfur region, most of which is controlled by the Rapid Support Forces.

For his part, Hasabo Abu Al-Fuqara, an official in the Rapid Support Media, told Al Jazeera Net that what he describes as the Port Sudan government is the one that cut off communications starting from the Darfur region and large parts of Kordofan as a collective punishment for all citizens there.

Abu Al-Faqra added that the complete cut off of communications came under the pretext of concealing the army’s movements towards Omdurman and other places, explaining, “We have nothing to do with this crime and it is not in our interest.”

Abu Al-Faqar is not the only one who accuses the Sudanese army of being responsible for the interruption of service in some parts of Kordofan and the entire Darfur region. Nazim Siraj, head of the volunteer organization “Hadrin”, stated on the X platform that they have evidence that the Sudanese army is responsible for the interruption of service in the Darfur region.

This was confirmed to Al Jazeera Net by an expert in the communications sector, who preferred to withhold his name, that the army noticed the use of rapid support for the communications sector, especially in the aspects of the Internet, to exaggerate small victories and mobilize more soldiers affected by the widespread propaganda for rapid support.

The army responds

On the other hand, there are those who have another vision that absolves the army of this responsibility. Tariq Zain Al-Abidin, former general manager of Sudani Company, expressed his point of view to Al Jazeera Net, saying that the Sudanese army has no interest in cutting off service.

Zain Al-Abidin explains that the army is now considered the sovereign ruling authority and therefore responsible for all citizens, and the interruption of the services of a vital sector linked to people’s lives exposes it to intense popular pressure and therefore it cannot bite its teeth on its own.

In the same vein, a media source told Al Jazeera Net that the interruption of communications service deprives the army of serving field resources, which is an important service in managing wars, especially in remote and distant places.

The Sudanese army, for its part, responded to the accusation in a practical manner, as Major General Moatasem Al-Hajj, Deputy Director of the Defense Industries System, handed over to the local authorities in Karari locality, north of Omdurman, communications devices linked to Starlink satellites to provide free Internet services to the public in areas under the control of the army.

Good news..but

The communications network outage in large parts of Sudan began partially on February 3 and was completed on the 6th of the same month.

Then it began to break after Sudani Company was able, since February 13, to restore its services to its subscribers in a number of states, such as the eastern states, the northern state, and the Nile River.

Today, communication services have reached the states of White Nile, Sennar, and some of North Kordofan, while the entire Darfur region, the states of Gezira and Khartoum, and large parts of Kordofan are still out of coverage.

Getting out of the mud

According to an informed source at Sudani Company, the Board of Directors approved a recommendation from the company’s director to begin importing a new switchboard to work in the city of Port Sudan to avoid the presence of the main switchboards in the city of Khartoum.

He explained that the implementation of these steps began last September, about 5 months after the war between the Sudanese army and the Rapid Support Forces.

According to the source, the cost of the new project exceeded $50 million and enabled the company to regain control of the control room from the city of Port Sudan.

Use concealment to attain your needs

On the other hand, according to what a senior source in Zain Company told Al Jazeera Net, the company has begun radical treatments that will enable it to return soon and strongly despite the plotters’ plots, according to his words.

An informed source in the communications sector told Al Jazeera Net that Zain has imported a new exchange that enables it to operate from the city of Port Sudan, and that the work of technicians in the company is underway and this company can begin providing its services at any time.

The same source indicated that the company prefers to accomplish many matters in secrecy and quiet due to the presence of huge assets in various parts of Sudan that it fears will be reached by the hands of revenge.

Do they sell air?

The interruption of the services of the three companies, which hold government licenses that guarantee them the provision of telecommunications services in Sudan, opened the way for what can be described as the black market for communications, as large segments of citizens began using communications devices linked to satellites, especially the Star Link category, which is considered low, as its monthly bill amounts to It costs about $100 and can serve 20 cell phones at one time.

Investing in the new communications market is no longer limited to individuals. Al Jazeera Net spoke to a number of individuals who purchase this communications service from individuals working with the Rapid Support Forces, as it was found that an hour of use in areas under the control of the Rapid Support Forces costs about $2.5.

The Sudanese army also purchased equipment that enables it to communicate via satellite and provided these devices to many government institutions. It also granted permissions to private institutions to import the same devices.

Battle on the way

A source familiar with a Sudanese company expressed to Al Jazeera Net his fear of the spread of telecommunications devices connected via satellite, stressing that this is a violation of the licenses granted to telecommunications companies, which have spent huge sums of money establishing fiber-optic networks and towers covering all parts of Sudan.

The same source indicated that the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority - which is responsible for regulating the work of telecommunications companies - had issued a circular prohibiting such devices.

But the former director of Sudani Company, Tariq Zain Al-Abidin, does not see security solutions as an effective solution to prevent benefiting from the technology provided by satellites, which has developed recently, especially after the introduction of artificial intelligence technology.

Zain Al-Abidin believes that operating companies should be part of deals to benefit from this technology instead of fighting it.

Will the crisis end in Port Sudan?

Although telecommunications companies have begun solutions to restore control over operating devices, there are those who say something else.

According to Tariq Zein Al-Abidin, these immediate treatments will have some holes in terms of the quality and comprehensiveness of the service.

Zain Al-Abidin points out that Rapid Support’s control over the data center in Khartoum, which represents the information treasury for government and private institutions, including civil registry, financial banks, universities, and private companies, represents great risks despite the efforts of specialists to create backup copies of data and store them in other safe places.

An informed source in a Sudanese company told Al Jazeera Net that despite the strenuous efforts they are making and their efforts to deliver all services to all of Sudan, they will not be able to do so in the areas controlled by the Rapid Support Forces except with the approval and cooperation of those forces, which represent the de facto authority, as he put it. .

Source: Al Jazeera