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Central African Republic bans text messages after violent protests

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The Central African Republic (CAR) has banned text messaging as it attempts to restore security after violent demonstrations broke out in the capital Bangui. According to the AFP, mobile phone users now get a message in French that says “SMS not allowed” whenever they try to send texts.  

“The use of any SMS by all mobile phone subscribers is suspended from Monday June 2, 2014, until further notice,” the country’s telecommunications ministry said in a letter to the country’s four cell phone carriers.

Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke, who urged citizens to return to work last Sunday, has been credited for imposing the ban. “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 told Reuters

Bangui has been paralyzed by violent demonstrations over the past week. The protesters, who are calling for the transitional government to resign, mounted a mass text campaign to organize a general strike. 

The resurgence of violence is just the latest in a series of conflicts in the impoverished country. The root of the new round of instability in the CAR can be traced to March of last year, when Muslim Seleka rebels overthrew the government to gain control of the majority Christian country. The power grab resulted in ethno-religious conflicts, which prompted the UN to warn of the possibility of genocide. Rebel leader Michel Djotodia was forced to resign as president in January. However, a peacekeeping force has failed to restore order, and members have even been accused of abusing citizens.  

There’s no official word on long the country would impose the ban. However, as a government source told AFP, the suspension of text messaging services is expected to last “for a few days.”

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