Netizen Report: Authorities shut down mobile internet in Ethiopia’s capital, as ethnic and political conflict persist


The Advox Netizen Report offers an international snapshot of challenges, victories, and emerging trends in Internet rights around the world.

Just five months into the administration of Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, protests rooted in ethnic conflict and the administration of land rights policies have once again taken Addis Ababa by storm and led to the deaths of at least 20 people.

On September 17, in what appeared to be an effort to quell social unrest, mobile internet networks were shut down across the capital city. Ethio Telecom, the country’s sole, government-owned internet and phone service provider, did not offer any public statement about the shutdown.

Abiy Ahmed came into office in April 2018 after nearly three years of mass protests, ethnic conflict and violent military interventions in some regions of the country. Former Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn voluntarily resigned from office in February 2018 after his once-ruling coalition had splintered beyond repair, opening the window of possibility for Ahmed’s election.

Hailed as a reformer, the new prime minister has ordered the release of thousands of political prisoners, removed top-level police and security officials from the previous regime and worked to rekindle relations with Eritrea. He also lifted the country’s state of emergency, which had been in place intermittently since 2015.

The resurgence of protests and corresponding internet shutdown, both hallmarks of public life under the previous regime, have raised fears that Ahmed’s efforts to restore peace and uphold human rights in the country are already faltering.

Reacting to the shutdown, activist and former prisoner of conscience Atnaf Berhane tweeted about the irony of this move on the part of the new government:


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