Ethiopia shuts down internet access throughout the country again

Internet access has been cut across Ethiopia since Tuesday.

This is due to national protests over the shooting death of singer and activist Hachalu Hundessa.

Thousands of outraged fans across the country have taken to the streets demanding justice. In an attempt to suppress the riots and prevent news coverage of them, the Ethiopian government has shut down internet services nationwide.

Outraged fans have clashed with police in several Ethiopian cities and seven people have died in the chaos thus far. Protests are confirmed to be taking place as far away as the city of Harar, 516 kilometers east of Addis Ababa.

The state-owned telecommunications company, Ethio Telecom operates a national monopoly, which makes it very easy to deactivate national internet and telephony services, providing Ethiopian authorities an effective internet “kill switch.”

Even though the internet has played a decisive role in transforming the lives of millions in Ethiopia, the current and previous governments have taken to regularly demanding the state telecoms monopoly to shut down the internet during security incidents, election periods and other periods of unrest.

With a growing use of internet-based services from banking to commodity exchanges, the shutdowns have come at immense economic cost. It’s estimated that the month-long shutdown in 2016 under prime minister Desalegn, cost the country $8 million. The two-week blackout in 2019 under current prime minister Abiy Ahmed is estimated to have cost the country $66.87 million.

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Semih Durmuş