(Reuters) – Access to social media platforms has been restricted in Ethiopia, Internet watchdog NetBlocks said, following violent protests sparked by a rift within the country’s Orthodox Church.
The protests broke out in the Oromiya region when three church officials declared themselves archbishops last month and set up their own governing body. Some demonstrators have opposed their move while others have supported it.
At least 30 people have been killed in protests since Feb. 4, the church said in a statement on Thursday.
The statement called for demonstrations on Sunday, accusing the Ethiopian government of “meddling” in the church’s internal affairs after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed asked his ministers to stay out of the dispute.
The Ethiopian state has traditionally maintained close ties to the Orthodox Church, to which more than 40% of the population adheres.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday. The government said in a statement on Thursday that the upcoming protest was banned to prevent violence.
Access to Facebook, Messenger, TikTok and Telegram was severely restricted, NetBlocks said in statement late on Thursday, citing network data it had collected.
Ethiopian authorities have previously shut down or restricted access to the internet during periods of political unrest, including in response to protests in 2020 that followed the killing of a popular singer from Oromiya.
Internet and phone communications were also shut down in the northern Tigray region for most of a two-year war that ended in a ceasefire in November.
The Orthodox Church vowed in its statement that Sunday’s protest would go ahead. It said the government’s ban constituted “a declaration to destroy the church once and for all”.
Oromiya, home to Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, has experienced violent conflict for many years, part of wider unrest in Ethiopia, a multi-ethnic country where power has long been contested between federal and regional authorities.
1 thought on “Social media restricted in Ethiopia”
I am glad to hear that the planned peaceful demonstration has been postponed. This is excellent news for the mothers of the youth who can be victims of trigger happy of the security forces. The recent warning from the regional government was shocking and troubling to me. It goes to the effect of saying that its patience is running out and will show no mercy to the peaceful demonstrators. Has Mengistu somehow found a way to clone himself in these regional government officials at the top echelons? I have been uneasy about these so-called regional government especially those that had showcased us the size and capabilities of their ‘special’ forces. It looked to me that they have confidence in their muscle than in their mental capabilities. That is no different than militarism which has been typical of all African murderous dictators since the late 1950’s. The only public mass gathering they allow has been rallies they organized. Their government structures have what they call ‘cadres’ at the bottom. Those are the ones who tell you what is what and anything outside their menus is tantamount to make you disappear or rot in their filthy jail. I feel for those who live in the region of Oromia that produced me. I feel for every one of them regardless of ethnicity. In the areas where the regional government controls they have to live under the piercing eyes of these dreaded ‘cadres’ and in other areas that are proven to be free range for murderous armed groups they have to live not sure if they will live to see another day. These vagabonds have college professors as their foreign liaisons where one of them had posted their murderous ‘Manifesto’ on his social media account. Now we know who their ‘foreign’ minister is. So I feel for everyone who now live Oromia region. It is a predicament I don’t wish for anyone. I’m glad that the planned peaceful demonstration has been postponed because those regional hateful officials have their ‘special’ forces guns loaded and cocked ready to mow down groups they hate more than Hitler and Neo-Nazis hate Jews, Gypsies, Serbs and Slavic people. I commend Obbo Haile bin Gebreselassie and General Derartu bint Tulu for their blessed roles in making this a reality. Yes, you heard me right. I called General Derartu and there is nothing you can do about it. If you complain about it I will start calling Obbo Haile a general too.
Now such repugnant behavior by these regional government official once again proves me right in what I have been saying about so-called ‘liberation’ fronts this and ‘liberation’ fronts that for decades. Once they carve out a territory they will use it as their personal fiefdom. If you pull aside and talk to every regional government he won’t hide that from you. He may try to veil and sugar coat it like the territory and its resources belong to the people of his region but what he really means by people is him and his cabals only. Just ask him how much he is paying himself and when was the last time he missed a meal due to lack of resources. Then look at the citizens in the region especially those in Boranaa districts. Just look at the people who are dying from cholera, malaria and other easily avoidable diseases right in front of the noses of these bulging-at-the-waste-line officials. Just look around. Now you know why ‘liberation’ front this and that don’t sit well with me. It is nothing other than a connivers’ ply to create personal fiefdom with dynasties to follow. But, boy, they know how to talk. They know how to feed on the raw emotion of the youth. Now you know why my antennas go up whenever I hear someone telling me he/she is a ‘liberation’ front of this or that kind . Okay bigots! Go out and hang yourself because you heard me saying that.