RSF brings down telecoms networks across Sudan, sources say

Tuesday February 06 2024

Paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) fighters ride in the back of a technical vehicle in the East Nile district of greater Khartoum, Sudan on April 23, 2023. PHOTO | RAPID SUPPORT FORCES | AFP


Communications were down for most Sudanese on Monday in what two telecoms sector sources and the army-aligned state news agency said was a deliberate move by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) who are battling the military.

The RSF did not comment, while an RSF source said the paramilitary had nothing to do with the outages.

Many Sudanese reported being unable to reach family members, compounding the impacts of a war between the RSF and Sudan's army that has forced more than 7.5 million people from their homes and prompted warnings of famine.

Millions rely on online payments for food and other essentials, now inaccessible due to the network disruption.

Read: Sudan fighting spreads to Unesco heritage site

Netblocks, an internet observer, shared data on X on Sunday that showed connectivity for two major providers, South African-owned MTN Sudan and state-owned Sudani, falling to zero and close to zero beginning on Friday.


According to state news agency Sudan News Agency (Suna) and the two sources, the RSF shut the two providers' connections down as it demanded the restoration of network outages in the western region of Darfur, which it largely controls.

The cause of outages in Darfur was not immediately clear. MTN and Sudani did not respond to a request for comment.

The RSF source blamed the Darfur outages on the army, saying it had ordered months-long outages there and other areas that had not drawn similar outside concern. They did not say who was responsible for the outages in other parts of the country but said the RSF was not behind them.

The paramilitary force controls most of the capital Khartoum, including telecoms companies' facilities. The two telecoms sector sources said the RSF was able to shut down the networks without causing permanent damage.

The RSF has also forced Sudan's third main provider, Kuwaiti-owned Zain Sudan, to stop service in River Nile state and Port Sudan city, both controlled by the army, the sources and Suna said.

Read: Sudan forces trade fire across Nile

In a statement on Monday posted on Facebook, Zain said that its employees "are working under very difficult, harsh, and dangerous circumstances, and [Zain] would like to note that the current network outage is due to circumstances outside of its control".

A representative for Sudani declined to comment, but on Saturday the company said on Facebook it was working to restore service.

MTN parent company MTN Group said in a statement to Reuters on Monday that the outage arose from the ongoing conflict.

"MTN Sudan is actively engaging with relevant stakeholders to minimise the duration of this interruption," it said.

Network towers, power lines and other infrastructure have been damaged in fighting across Sudan since the conflict broke out in April over plans to integrate the RSF and the army as part of a political transition towards elections.

The war has made Sudan the world's biggest internal displacement crisis and both sides have been accused of war crimes.

Medical charity MSF warned on Monday that at least one child was dying every two hours in Zamzam, a large camp for displaced people in Darfur.