The majority of Ethiopians have been living with no internet access for about 16 days. This order was executed upon Prime Minister Abiy’s request. The Prime Minister intended to prevent ethnic outrage in the country by controlling news which would result in clashes from spreading.
According to Net Blocks, this move rendered the country offline.
“Real-time metrics show that the country remains largely offline as of Wednesday 15 July, with only a rise in fixed-line/Wi-Fi lines observed in recent days. Most users remain offline as cellular networks remain cut,” Net Blocks added.
The Prime Minister’s spokeswoman defended the president from critics during a press briefing. She said that it was his obligation to protect the citizens from hate speech, ethnic conflicts. More so, she said they were concerned about the people’s safety. As such, would not entertain some people using the internet to spread the news that would result in clashes.
Following the unjust death of a prominent Oromo singer, Hachalu Hundesa, Oromians held protests demanding justice. His enthusiasts rioted in Addis Ababa sparking violence. Meanwhile, police forces struggled to restore peace among them. To prevent violence in different parts of the country, the government decided to disrupt the internet, preventing the news from spreading. The blackout was meant to prevent any form of incitement which would result in communal violence. Nevertheless, since the burial, the country is slowly returning to normalcy.
Random Internet Blackouts frustrate citizens
The closure of network in the country sparked criticism from the citizens. All over the country, everyone was complaining as they were not alarmed in advance. The disconnection angered many citizens, especially those relying on the internet for their businesses and communication.
Internet is key to promoting the economic growth of a country in the millennials since everything is going digital nowadays. The blackout disrupted online services, social media messaging apps, etc. Right from the capital city, the residents claimed not being able to send messages.
The series of internet blackouts in the country has so far affected the country’s economic development. Initially, Ethiopia was among the fastest-growing sub-Saharan African states. However, its economy appears to flag following the unexpected network disruptions. Businessmen are getting impatient of the blackouts happening amid serious business deals.
Restoration after weeks of blackout
The past two weeks have been frustrating for Ethiopians since they have been surviving without an internet connection. The outage sparked reactions from not only Net Blocks but also Human Rights Groups. The latter stated that the disruption of the internet denies citizens freedom of expression, and risks triggering more tensions.
“This shutdown comes at a time when the country is mourning the loss of a beloved musician and a courageous activist and, millions are calling for justice for Hachalu,” said Berhan Taye, Senior Policy Analyst and Global Internet Shutdowns Lead at Access Now.
“Access to credible information is essential at times of crisis and emergency, and this current internet shutdown is causing further confusion, powerlessness, and anxiety among Ethiopians and the diaspora.”
The government, therefore, decided to restore the partial connection. However, Netblocks stated that not all parts of the country have access to the internet connection. As of last week, only embassies, some offices, and government buildings had an internet connection. Places outside Addis Ababa remain internet free, including the rural areas.