All telecommunications with the Ethiopian region of Tigray are down. Of that there is no doubt.
In a debate on al-Jazeerah yesterday Zadig Abraha, the Ethiopian minister in charge of democratisation, accused the Tigrayans of cutting the links. You can see this at 22 minutes into the programme.
But is this true?
A rather different story has been published by the Addis Standard.
A statement from the paper’s publishers said:
We urgently and kindly ask the Ethiopian government not to commit the same mistake that it committed in the days following the tragic assassination of artist Hachalu Hundessa, during which the internet was blocked nationwide for nearly a month and information, as a result, was coming out only from the government’s side, making truth become the ultimate victim.
This suggests that it is the Ethiopian government itself which has cut the links. Is this correct, or is it the Tigray regional authority?
Minister Zadig said his government is prepared to submit itself to independent scrutiny on this issue. That needs to be done.
Independent observers blame the government
A post by Netblocks, which monitors these questions had this to say.
“Network data from the NetBlocks internet observatory confirm that internet has been cut regionally in Ethiopia from 1 a.m. Wednesday 4 November 2020 local time. Metrics corroborate widespread reports of a data and telephony blackout in the northern region of Tigray, which are ongoing as of midnight.
“Minutes after the network disruption was registered by the observatory, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced via his verified Twitter and Facebook accounts that a “red line” had been crossed and that military action was being taken to “save the country” from restive groups.
Confirmed: Subnational internet blackout registered in #Ethiopia from 1 a.m. local time corroborating reports of network and telephony outages in restive state of #Tigray as PM announces military operation to “save the country”; incident ongoing 📉📵
— NetBlocks.org (@netblocks) November 4, 2020
“The new telecommunications blackout is understood to be the latest in a series of internet shutdowns imposed by the central government of Ethiopia. Measures imposed during security operations have limited news coverage and visibility around incidents on the ground during calls for autonomy and independence from the federal system. Political reforms promised by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed have largely stalled amid the collapse of security and killings fulled by ethnic divisions since 2018.
“NetBlocks has tracked national and regional internet shutdowns imposed by the government of Ethiopia including a multi-week internet shutdown that came into effect in June 2020 after the killing of activist-singer Hachalu Hundessa, and a similar blackout in 2019 following an alleged coup attempt in the Amhara region.”