Quantcast
Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
Keating: Central African Republican bans texts
First Published Jun 10 2014 07:38 am • Last Updated Jun 10 2014 07:38 am
Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

WASHINGTON • In a strange twist to the deteriorating and increasingly violent situation in the Central African Republic, the government banned text messages last week. Mobile phone users who attempt to text now receive a message reading "SMS not allowed." The country’s communications minister said the ban was put in place to "contribute to the restoration of security in the country."

The blackout, scheduled to last for "several days," went into effect after the government sent a letter to the country’s four main cellphone providers, including France’s Orange.

The ban came in response to a mass text urging a general strike to protest the failure of the government and international peacekeepers to stop the ongoing violence, which has now displaced 4.5 million people. The capital, Bangui, has been paralyzed by protests, particularly by its Muslim residents, in recent days, and French peacekeepers have been publicly booed.

A U.N. report released last week found "ample evidence" of war crimes being comitted by both sides in the ongoing conflict between the primarily Muslim Seleka and primarily Christian anti-Balaka militias.

There has been some interesting research done on the role played by mobile technology and political violence. A study published last year in the American Political Science Review found that from 2007 to 2009, areas of Africa with 2G network coverage were 50 percent more likely to have experienced incidents of armed conflict than those without. The authors argue that just as mobile communications help those organizing nonviolent protests, they can also make it easier for militia leaders to recruit followers into battles, terrorist attacks or pogroms.

There’s been a good deal of attention focused on the role of radio hate speech in fomenting organized massacres in Rwanda and more recently in South Sudan. It seems likely that cellphone networks could play a similar role.

Of course, preventing massacres doesn’t seem to be the government’s primary objective in this case. They’re cutting off communications to keep people from organizing anti-government protests. That’s also becoming a fairly common tactic, though not a particularly effective one.

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international news, social science and related topics. He was previously an editor at Foreign Policy magazine.


story continues below
story continues below



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment


About Reader Comments


Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Videos
Jobs
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.