Central African Republic authorities suspend SMS services

BANGUI Wed Jun 4, 2014 8:09am EDT

BANGUI (Reuters) - Central African Republic authorities have told mobile phone operators to suspend text messages following calls on services for a nationwide civil disobedience campaign to protest against violence.

An organization called Collectif Centrafrique Debout has been distributing SMS messages since the weekend asking people to stay home starting Thursday following more inter-communal bloodshed in the capital Bangui.

The government did not say who was behind the campaign but in the mass messages, the organization urged people to stay at home until there is complete disarmament, especially of the PK5 Muslim neighborhood.

"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," Communications Minister Abdallah Assan Kadre said in a statement.

The suspension will be in effect until further notice.

Central African Republic has been gripped by ethnic and religious violence since northern Seleka rebels, who are mostly Muslim, seized power in the mainly Christian nation in 2013.

Seleka left power in January under international pressure after 10 months of looting and violence that had prompted the formation of Christian militias known as anti-balaka who have carried out retaliatory attacks on Muslims.

An interim government led by Catherine Samba-Panza and nearly 8,000 African Union and French peacekeepers are struggling to contain the violence that has killed more than 2,000 and displaced about a million of the country's 4.5 million people.

The United Nations has warned that the conflict could spiral into a genocide.

France's Orange; MOOV, a subsidiary of Emirates Etisalat; Global Telecom's Telecel and Azur of Bahrein-registered Bintel are Central African Republic's main mobile providers.

Residents in the capital said on Wednesday that mobile messaging services have been suspended since Monday.

(Reporting by Crispin Dembassa-Kette,; Writing by Bate Felix, Editing by Angus MacSwan)