WATCH | MTN restores internet service in Sudan amid power struggle and chaos

16 April 2023 - 16:19 By Khalid Abdelaziz and Nafisa Eltahir
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Smoke rises over the city as army and paramilitaries clash in a power struggle, in Khartoum, Sudan, April 15, 2023 in this picture obtained from social media.
Smoke rises over the city as army and paramilitaries clash in a power struggle, in Khartoum, Sudan, April 15, 2023 in this picture obtained from social media.

Sudan's MTN telecommunications company was told by the authorities to restore internet services in the country and has done so, a few hours after being given a directive to block it, a company official told Reuters.

Two company officials told Reuters earlier in the day that MTN had cut internet services on the orders of the government's telecommunications regulator.

Users in Sudan confirmed that their internet service had been restored.

It came as Sudan's army launched air strikes on a rival paramilitary force's base near the capital in a bid to reassert control over the chaotic country on Sunday. A power struggle has erupted into that country. Clashes have killed 56 civilians and dozens of fighters.

The fighting broke out on Saturday between army units loyal to Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), led by Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti. It was the first such outbreak since both joined forces to oust president Omar Hassan al-Bashir in 2019.

International powers — the US, China, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UN, EU and AU — have appealed for an immediate end to the hostilities.

Efforts by neighbours and regional bodies to end the violence intensified on Sunday. That included an offer by Egypt and South Sudan to mediate between the fighting parties, according to a statement by the Egyptian presidency.

At the end of a day of heavy fighting, the army struck a base belonging to the RSF in the city of Omdurman, which adjoins the capital Khartoum, witnesses said late on Saturday.

Both the military and the RSF claimed they had control of Sudan's airport and other key installations in Khartoum, where fighting raged overnight.

The two rivals have been competing for power as political factions negotiate forming a transitional government after a 2021 military coup.

In the early hours of Sunday, residents reported hearing gunfire and explosions from heavy artillery through the night. Al Arabiya television broadcast footage showing thick plume of smoke rising over some districts in Khartoum.

“We're scared, we haven't slept for 24 hours because of the noise and the house shaking. We're worried about running out of water and food, and medicine for my diabetic father,” Huda, a young resident in southern Khartoum told Reuters.

“There's so much false information and everyone is lying. We don't know when this will end, how it will end,” she added.

Tagreed Abdin, an architect living in Khartoum, said the power was out and people were trying to conserve phone batteries. “We can hear air strikes, shelling, and gunfire,” she said.

Doctors' unions said it was difficult for medics and the sick to get to and from hospitals and called on the army and RSF to provide safe passage.

The weekend fighting followed rising tensions over the RSF's integration into the military. The disagreement over the timetable for that has delayed the signing of an internationally backed agreement with political parties on a transition to democracy.

A protracted confrontation could plunge Sudan into widespread conflict as it struggles with economic breakdown and tribal violence, derailing efforts to move towards elections.


Several groups of people reported being trapped near the presidential palace and military headquarters.

Some 250 students and 25 teachers were trapped in a school less than a kilometre from the presidential palace all day Saturday and overnight with no food, a teacher told Reuters. About 50 students who hadn't been reached by their families remained there, he said.

One small child was shot in the chest after entering the school courtyard but survived, a doctor said.

Social media videos showed military jets flying low over the city, at least one appearing to fire a missile.

The army said in a statement on Sunday that “the hour of victory is near”.

“We pray for mercy for the innocent lives taken by this reckless adventure taken by the rebel Rapid Support militia ... We will have good news for our patient and proud people soon, God willing,” the statement said.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors reported at least 56 civilians had been killed and 595 people, including combatants, had been wounded since the fighting erupted. Around half of the civilians who were killed died in provinces outside Khartoum, it said.

Scores of military personnel were also killed, the doctors' committee said, without giving a specific number due to a lack of first hand information from hospitals where those casualties were taken.

Egypt called on the fighting parties to ensure the safety of all Egyptian interests in Sudan, the Egyptian representative in the Arab League told a meeting called on Sunday to discuss developments in Sudan, which is also a member of the league.

In a speech at the league, Sudan said the Sudanese should be allowed to reach a settlement internally, without interference from the international community.

The AU's Peace and Security Council also called an emergency session on Sunday to discuss political and security developments in Sudan, it said on Twitter.

On Saturday morning, the RSF claimed to have seized the presidential palace, army chief's residence, state television station and airports in Khartoum, the northern city of Merowe, El Fasher and West Darfur state. The army rejected those assertions.

The government ordered businesses, schools, banks and government offices to close on Sunday.

The armed forces said it would not negotiate with the RSF unless the force dissolved. The army told soldiers seconded to the RSF to report to nearby army units, which could deplete RSF ranks if they obey.

RSF leader Hemedti, deputy head of state, called military chief Burhan a “criminal” and a “liar”.

Pope Francis appealed for peace, saying in his weekly address in St Peter's Square: “I call for prayers so that weapons may be laid down and that dialogue may prevail to return to a path of peace and concord”.


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