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RFS imposes telecoms blackout darkening Sudanese situation

Four industry sources said that the RSF began shutting down the networks on Feb. 5, completing the blackout two days later
Sudanese refugee women who have fled the violence in Sudan's Darfur region, sit beside their makeshift shelters near the border between Sudan and Chad in Koufroun, Chad. — Reuters file photo
Sudanese refugee women who have fled the violence in Sudan's Darfur region, sit beside their makeshift shelters near the border between Sudan and Chad in Koufroun, Chad. — Reuters file photo
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CAIRO: A communications network blackout in Sudan, blamed on the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, has hobbled aid delivery and left the war-weary population of almost 50 million unable to make payments or contact the outside world.


The RSF has been fighting Sudan's army for control of the country since April in a war that has killed thousands, displaced almost 8 million, and sparked warnings of famine.


Four industry sources said that the RSF began shutting down the networks on Feb. 5, completing the blackout two days later.


After 10 months of conflict, the RSF controls most of the capital Khartoum and some of Sudan's infrastructure that is based there, including the headquarters of the telecoms providers.


An RSF source said on Feb. 5 the paramilitary had nothing to do with the outages.


The sources said that RSF soldiers had threatened the blackout unless engineers restored service to the western Darfur region, which the RSF controls and which has experienced a blackout for months.


A telecom industry official blamed the situation there on lack of fuel and dangerous working conditions.


Devices hooked up Elon Musk's Starlink satellite internet system have proliferated, despite a government order against them, but most are in the dark in a country where smartphone use for most aspects of life was ubiquitous and many had access to WiFi or data networks.


UNICEF said on Friday that 700,000 children in Sudan were likely to suffer from the worst form of malnutrition this year, with tens of thousands who could die.


"The consequences of the past 300 days means that more than 700,000 children are likely to suffer from the deadliest form of malnutrition this year," James Elder, spokesperson for UNICEF, told a press conference in Geneva.


"UNICEF won't be able to treat more than 300,000 of those without improved access and without additional support. In that case, tens of thousands would likely die."


The United Nations on Wednesday urged countries not to forget the civilians caught up in the war in Sudan, appealing for $4.1 billion to meet their humanitarian needs and support those who have fled to neighbouring countries.


Fighting continued in the capital and west of the country, with the head of the RSF claiming gains in a speech on Sunday. The United Nations also said fighting had flared on the edges of the densely populated city of Al-Fasher. — Reuters


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