Sudan internet shutdown amidst crisis
For the people of Sudan three things are not uncommon but are definitely unfair, shutting down of the internet or throttling, protest to gain their civil rights and government retaliation in response to citizens outcry.
It was a period of celebration in Sudan and all over the world when peaceful demonstrations and protests saw the overthrow of an oppressive and authoritarian regime of Omar Al Bashir in April. This was as a result of consistent and coordinated citizen movement to see an oppressive system ejected from power.
However the citizens in their quest to protests did not only seek removal of Bashir’s government but also the transition to a civilian government which the military has since then refused to acknowledge.
Over 100 people have been killed during this crisis with over 40 bodies recovered from the Nile River; reports of cases of rape and brutal violence have also been high amidst the evolution. This siege was ignited by a morning attack on pro-democracy protesters who had a peaceful sit-in outside military headquarters in Khartoum on Monday 3 June.
This forceful use of violence and power plays has awoken serious concerns over the state in Sudan. NetBlocks has reported that these new internet disruptions in Sudan come in addition to the ongoing blackout affecting mobile providers MTN, Mobiltel (ZAIN), parts of the national Sudan Telecom Sudatel / Sudani network, and education and research network SUDREN.
The Sudan Transitional Military Council (TMC) thus ordered an internet shutdown across the country as a way to hinder Sudanese people from communicating what is happening on the ground with the world.
As a result a social media movement all over the world is currently taking form with users urged to use hashtags such as #IAmTheSudanRevolution to stir up conversations and global movement in support of the people of Sudan.
Governments such as the US and the UK have condemned the attacks, Human Rights Watch and the UN secretary council are debating possible sanctions while the African Union Peace and Security Council has suspended Sudan until “the effective establishment of a civilian-led transitional authority, as the only way to allow the Sudan to exist from the current crisis”.
An article by access Now KeepItOn campaign emphasizes that “this time around, internet shutdowns have directly been followed by reports of systematic and organized killings and looting by the Transitional Military Council”, as proof once again of the power the internet holds in mobilizing communities, building communities of trust towards issues of urgent concern for the people and serving as a space to strategize, move and communicate around threats to democracy.
This has not gone unnoticed with attempts to block both offline and online assembly of citizens the transitional government is only proving its brutality but its unbelief and distaste of democracy in all its glory.
Documenting the current happenings in Sudan is paramount to shedding light on the people of Sudan and the rest of the world on the massive abuses and use of force to stifle the people’s movement in the country.
While technology has proved to be an enable of citizen’s journalists as well as traditional journalists there have been reports of the military confiscating and destroying mobile phones and other electronic devices of protesters.
Undeniably the internet is one key tool that the revolutionists of the 21st century need; with its decentralized åcharacteristics it has a strong influence at structuring and serving as a medium for driving social change.
Increasingly across Africa and beyond governments have been making steps to suppress the strong power and potential the internet holds to communicate and mobilize citizens to exercise their rights to participate and hold governments accountable serving as a civic space in the 21st century.
The previous government of Sudan before the removal of Omar Al Bashir had used the same means to stifle citizens’ voices and curtail the revolution of the masses. However the Transitional government should not follow in those footsteps if they mean to push for an effective and open democratic Sudan that is sensitive to the people’s needs.
It is important for the Transitional government to acknowledge that the internet is an important civic space that should be kept open to ensure that citizens can practice their role as active citizens to hold them accountable to what they pledged to do for the people.
Paradigm Initiative urges the government of Sudan to switch the internet back on and keep it on, with respect to upholding the standards of human rights including adhering to key rights such as freedom of expression, assembly and access to information at this critical stage in shaping the future of Sudan.
To ensure that the people of Sudan have access to information and are able to communicate and document their fight for civil and open government, having access to the internet should be key to keeping the trust of the people by making information flow open and accessible to all.
The Internet has proved its role to enable citizens to mobilize and push for accountability and transparency which at this crucial defining time of the development of Sudan is much needed towards what the people have been fighting for – an egalitarian, open and inclusive society.