War plunges South Darfur communications into ‘medieval abyss’

File photo: ICT4D, CC BY-SA 2.0

A complete breakdown in mobile phone and internet connections that has plagued Nyala, capital of South Darfur and Sudan’s second-largest city, since the early days of the war that broke out in April this year, has “plunged the city into a medieval communications abyss”. While satellite services offer an interim solution, the public all for restoration of the regular networks by service providers.

Lawyer Yousef Mahmoud, who lives in Nyala, tells Radio Dabanga that he has a close relationship with his brother, university professor El Tayeb Mahmoud. El Tayeb lived in Khartoum, and before the war broke out, they would have long conversations on the phone every day.

Mahmoud laments that after the war broke out, his brother died in the heavy fighting in Khartoum. “It took 10 days for the news to reach me in Nyala. It was in a way akin to reporting news in the Middle Ages.”

Sad stories

Another lawyer, Mohamed El Reyih, says that he remained in Nyala for more than a month without communicating with his family members outside the city. He travelled 160 kilometres to El Daein, capital of East Darfur, in late September, only to reassure his relatives in the rest of Sudan about their condition in Nyala.

There are dozens of posts on social networking sites, especially Facebook, for some families, asking about their sons in the city of Nyala and the situation in the neighborhoods they live in and what happened in them, and often the response comes from people who went out of Nyala to other cities where there are communication networks, while some tended to write text messages on paper and send them from the cities of El Daein and El Fasher to Nyala and vice versa through the drivers of travel vehicles to know the conditions of their families.

Satellite Internet

Sectors of the community in Nyala and other cities in Darfur, which lost communication networks due to the destruction of network infrastructure as a result of the fierce battles that took place between – began – to attract satellite internet services for investment through “Wi-Fi” devices, which was a refuge for anyone who wants to communicate with his family and friends outside the city of Nyala, callers say.

According to Dabanga follow-ups, investors in Nyala brought about 10 satellite Internet devices, which made communication in the city easier, especially after the cessation of battles in the city, which fell into the hands of RSF in late October. The satellite communications devices were distributed in the city’s markets and public places, and internet service costs SDG 2,000 per hour.

But despite these interim solutions, the citizens of the city of Nyala continued to demand the return of communication networks, in terms of the fact that satellite Internet communication is expensive, in addition to the fact that the service is provided in public places that do not provide privacy and it is difficult for callers to talk freely about for fear of the eyes and ears of military intelligence, given that the city is still under the weight of war.


After the fall of the city of Nyala into the hands of theRSF, communications did not return to the city despite the promises of the Rapid Support Command that it will provide all possible conditions for companies to restore service, and said one of the young people living in Nyala asked to withhold his name for security reasons, that the three telecommunications companies “Sudanese, Zain, MTN” asked the rapid support to provide 150 barrels of fuel for operation, but the rapid support saw that the cost of operating networks is very high at the moment, and according to the follow-ups of Dabanga, the cost of a barrel of gasoline is SDG 550,000, and a Zain Telecom employee explained that one of the problems that prevented the return of networks was the theft of fuel from generators to operate networks.

Technical problems

Zain employee “W.A.” told Dabanga that in addition to the difficulties facing the networks in providing fuel and the theft they are exposed to, Zain was affected by the cutting of cables in several locations due to the war, and added, “We in Zain are affected by the interruption of the cable by the air strike of the Shambat bridge Rabat between the cities of “Omdurman and Bahri”, as well as the interruption of the cable in the area between “Mershing and Damma” north of the city of Nyala, but he pointed out that there are efforts by the company to restore Communications via the “fibre” service in an undisclosed area, and pointed out that the solutions to the problems of the companies “Sudani and MTN” depend on saving fuel and protecting them from theft.