Outcry in Sudan over planned shutdown of Elon Musk’s Starlink internet services


Nearly 100 humanitarian groups in Sudan have warned Elon Musk he risks “collectively punishing” millions of Sudanese by shutting down his vital Starlink satellite internet service in the country.

Sudan had reportedly been grappling with a widespread telecommunications blackout for several months, with many aid groups using Starlink to operate during the humanitarian crisis which the UN had warned was the largest in decades.

However Starlink, the satellite arm of Musk’s SpaceX, recently said that it would remove its services in Sudan by restricting roaming in jurisdictions where it was not licensed.

The Guardian reported that the imminent termination of the system risked destabilising the coordination of emergency assistance and humanitarian services to millions of civilians caught up in the year-long civil conflict.

Read more: Zambia becomes sixth African country to launch SpaceX’s Starlink satellite internet service

A coalition of 94 rights organisations operating in Sudan issued a statement: “Any shutdown of telecommunication services is a violation of human rights and may be considered to be a collective punishment that will not only isolate individuals from their support networks but also exacerbate the already dire economic situation facing millions.”

“The potential shutdown of Starlink would have a disproportionate impact on civilians and the aid organisations who are trying to reach them.”

Musk’s move would compound a widespread telecommunications blackout in Sudan with the two warring factions, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) and Sudanese military, targeting relevant infrastructure.

The coalition, which included Islamic Relief Worldwide and Sudan Human Rights Network, urged the repair of damaged infrastructure across the country.

In areas where formal telecommunication is not working – the Darfur region, parts of Khartoum and the Kordofan states – civilians and humanitarian groups including emergency responders connect through informal Starlink internet cafes.

The same areas were also the most exposed to conflict and risk of famine, making the ramifications of the blackout even more profound.

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