Internet cut off in Ethiopia amid outcry over death of singer-activist
By Bethlehem Feleke, CNN
(CNN)Internet access was cut across Ethiopia on Tuesday amid national protests over the shooting death of singer and activist Hachalu Hundessa.
Hachalu, a prominent figure in the Oromo ethnic group, was shot Monday night at the Gelan Condominiums area of the capital Addis Ababa, according to state broadcaster EBC citing the Addis Ababa police commissioner, Getu Argaw.
On Tuesday, images of protesters in the capital and in Oromia region circulated on social media and the US Embassy in Ethiopia released a security alert saying the embassy was “monitoring reports of protests and unrest, including gunfire, throughout Addis Ababa.”
Demonstrators also protested the singer’s death in front of the US embassy, the alert said, describing the situation as “volatile at this time.”
A blanket shutdown
Netblocks, an internet-monitoring NGO, reported that internet “has been cut across most of Ethiopia from just after 9am local time on Tuesday.”
Ethiopia’s government has previously been accused of shutting down internet and telecommunications services during elections and periods of unrest. Ethio Telecom, the country’s only telecoms provider, is a government-owned monopoly.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted condolences to Hachalu’s family and friends on Tuesday, adding that an investigation is underway but urged his citizens to keep the peace.
The Addis Ababa police commissioner said some suspects in the shooting have been arrested, EBC reports.
Hachalu fought for visibility for the Oromo ethnic group, and his songs brought Ethiopia’s youth together during years of protests that led to political reforms in the country in 2018, said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.
Jackson said authorities must conduct a “prompt, thorough, impartial, independent and effective” probe into the singer’s killing and restore internet connection immediately to allow the musician’s fans mourn his death.
“The authorities should immediately lift the countrywide blanket internet shutdown and allow people to access information and to freely mourn the musician,” Jackson said.