News Alerts

30 Jun 2020 | 11:45 AM UTC

Ethiopia: Communications disrupted across country amid unrest over killing of prominent Oromo activist June 30 /update 1

Ethiopia News Alert

Communications disrupted across country amid unrest over killing of prominent Oromo activist June 30; avoid all demonstrations

TIMEFRAME expected from 6/30/2020, 12:00 AM until 7/2/2020, 11:59 PM (Africa/Addis_Ababa). COUNTRY/REGION Addis Ababa

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Event

Monitoring groups reported that internet services were severely disrupted across Ethiopia on Tuesday, June 30, amid ongoing unrest over the killing of a prominent Oromo musician and activist in Addis Ababa. Internet access is believed to have been blocked across the country from around 09:00 (local time) on Tuesday, with both mobile data and landline services being affected. Other communications, including mobile networks, are also reported to have been disrupted, and dozens of activists stated that they were unable to make or receive phone calls, although it is currently unclear if any specific networks have been shut down.

Unrest erupted in Addis Ababa and towns and cities in the Oromia region on Tuesday morning following the killing of Haacaaluu Hundeessaa. The popular Oromo singer, known for his political protest songs, was shot dead by unidentified assailants in the Akaki Kality area on the southern outskirts of the capital on Monday night, June 29. Police later announced that they had arrested several suspects. However, the exact circumstances of the shooting remain unclear.

Following news of Haacaaluu's death, hundreds of Oromo activists were reported to have gathered near St Paul's Hospital in the north-west Aba Koran area of the capital on Tuesday morning, demanding that the singer's body be released for burial. Clashes are reported to have subsequently broken out between activists and security forces who refused to release the body, with some on social media claiming that police had used live fire to disperse crowds. Activists gathered in several other areas of the capital, including outside the US embassy, as the protests spread, with activists blocking roads with burning tires and other debris, although most gatherings were dispersed by security forces. Tensions in the area remain high amid rumors that Haacaaluu's body was being transported to the Oromia region to prevent his burial in the capital.

Unrest has also been reported in several towns and cities in the Oromia region, including Nekemte, Jimma, Adama, Bedele, Chiro, and Harar, as well as Mek'ele (Tigray region). Information on protests outside of Addis Ababa is currently limited due to the communications disruption, but local media sources reported that several government buildings have been attacked and set alight by protesters in Chiro and Adama, where at least two people are believed to have been killed after unidentified gunmen entered a hospital.

A number of consular authorities, including the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the US embassy in Addis Ababa, have issued notices advising their citizens to avoid demonstrations and shelter in place if in major urban areas.

Further unrest and associated security operations are likely in the near term.

Context

Despite Abiy's appointment as Prime Minister in 2018 and the end of the widespread protest campaigns and a state of emergency in the Oromia region, tensions between the government and the Oromo community have remained high in Addis Ababa. Unrest and clashes between protesters and security forces have repeatedly broken out following the killing or arrest of prominent Oromo activists, amid claims that they are being discriminated against in the capital.

Communications networks in Ethiopia are frequently blocked or restricted during major security incidents and unrest, as well as times of heightened political tensions, and the government has often been accused of using the tactic to prevent the spread of rumours and organization of protests via social media.

Advice

Those in Ethiopia are advised to monitor developments and heed any directives issued by local authorities. All demonstrations and political gatherings in Ethiopia should be avoided due to the high risk of incidental violence and aggressive crowd-dispersal operations by security forces.

 

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