Ethiopia Restores Internet Access Two Months Into A State of Emergency

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Written by Kevin Mwanza

Ethiopia, which has been hit by months of protests by its two biggest tribes, Oromo and Amhara, restored mobile internet on Friday, just two months into a six months state of emergency that forced the horn of Africa country into an internet black-out.

The government shut down access to social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram, Viber and WhatsApp in October, in accordance to the rules of the state of emergency, Africa News reported.

The restoration however, followed the arrest of Merera Gudina, chairman of the Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), after he addressed the European Union (EU) parliament, Sudan Tribune reported.

Officials from the OFC party said they did not receive any explanation for Gudina’s detention after his arrival from Belgium, with government sources saying that he was arrested for violating terms of the ongoing curfew.

The two-month internet black-out, believed to be the longest in the history of the horn of Africa nation, with one of the poorest rates of internet penetration in Africa.

Ethiopia is the worst country in Africa in terms of internet censorship and freedom of information, and fourth in world ahead of China, Syria and Iran, according to a report by Freedom House.

About 12 percent of the population in Africa’s second-most populous nation has access to internet, and the government has monopoly over internet ownership, through its agency, EthioTelecom.

The government contracted Chinese firms, ZTE and Huawei to help upgrade internet infrastructure across the nation, a move critics said is only meant help in its censoring and surveillance on internet on its citizens, TesfaNews reported.

Ethiopia blocked internet in a bid to quell the violent Oromia protests that have led to the death of at least 500 civilians, as security forces used lethal force on largely un-armed protesters, according to data by Human Rights Watch.

The Oromia and Amhara tribes started the protests in November 2014, demonstrating against economic and political marginalization in Africa’s fastest growing economy.

Ethiopia is one of African countries where governments shut down access to internet in efforts to stifle political opposition and economically-fueled protests.

Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s outgoing president blocked internet access last week, prior to the presidential poll that he lost to the opposition candidate, Adama barrow.

In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni shut down internet access ahead of polls in February, while Ali Bongo took a similar move following his disputed re-election in Gabon, in August.