The government of the Central African Republic has reportedly imposed a ban on the use of SMS messages, with any attempts to send text messages met with an error reading “SMS not allowed”.
The ban, which will last several days, comes in response to security concerns as residents of the capital Bangui have been communicating via SMS to spark outbreaks of violence.
Communications Minister Abdallah Assan Kadre said: “On the instruction of the prime minister…in order to contribute to the restoration of security in the country, the use of SMS by all mobile phone subscribers is suspended.”
The city has been beset by violent attacks in recent days, with protesters demanding that the current government step down. Religious tensions are exacerbating the troubles, with Christians destroying a mosque following a grenade attack in a Catholic church. These actions have prompted SMS campaigns attempting to organise strikes, mass protests and even encouraging ethnicity-based attacks.
Violence has been ongoing in the Central African Republic but has intensified in recent months after a predominantly Muslim rebel group known as the Seleka stormed the capital in March, taking power. This prompted clashes with Christian defence groups calling themselves the anti-balaka.
Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser Joanne Mariner said that based on the time she had spent in the war-torn country, there was there was a "definite possibility of at least some attacks being coordinated by phone".
She added that the anti-balaka had made threatening phone calls to Muslim civilians, and that the fighting factions had used their phones to take "horrible trophy photos" of opposition casualties.