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Sudanese seek connectivity via Starlink after weeks of outages

Residents and displaced people attempt to access the internet via Starlink in the city of Omdurman, Sudan, March 9, 2024.

OMDURMAN, Sudan, March 13 (mod1s) - Some Sudanese people shut off from cell networks for weeks due to hostilities between opposing military groups are utilizing Starlink satellite connections to access the internet, as regular service begins to resume to other regions of the nation. 

The cellphone blackout that started in early February has prohibited people from purchasing vital products like low supplies of food and from getting in contact with displaced family, as well as delaying humanitarian delivery. 

In the Karari region of Omdurman, where Sudan's army has made recent successes against the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and has allowed some satellite connection to civilians, people clustered round a Starlink access point to connect on their mobile phones with family and loved ones. 

"People need connection, they need it badly," said Amal Abdu, a resident in the Karari area of Omdurman, part of Sudan's broader capital.

"Every day we're assured there will be connectivity today or tomorrow and it doesn't happen. People here hear of the loss of their father or sibling one or two weeks after they die," she added. 

Fighting has caused considerable damage to the financial sector and many individuals have turned on the Bank of Khartoum's Bankak mobile app to move money and make payments. 

"People don't have cash, there's no cash in the country, we want to use Bankak and we can't log in," said Abdu.

Telecoms sector insiders reported earlier that the RSF had shut down networks after threatening to do so unless the army restored disabled links in the western area of Darfur. 

State owned Sudani has restored service in portions of Sudan, but swaths of the nation, including the capital and most of Darfur, remain cut off. 

A second provider, Zain, was able to bring back some very limited service last week. 

People in places with no cell connections have increasingly sought to utilize Elon Musk's Starlink, a satellite service not generally permitted in Sudan that is exorbitant for average Sudanese at roughly $2.5 for an hour of access. 

"The latest thing we tried is Starlink but there are a lot of people and there's a lot of pressure on it, not everyone manages to get connection," said another Karari resident who revealed his first name, Mohamed. 

The battle between the army and the RSF started in mid-April 2023 over tensions tied to a planned political change, and has led to a significant humanitarian catastrophe and rising starvation. 

Nearly 6.5 million people have been displaced inside Sudan and more than 1.9 million have fled to neighboring countries, according to the International Organization for Migration.


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