April 10, 2023

Internet blackout in major Amhara region cities

City: GonderCurrent Affairs

Internet access is restricted due to the chaos following the government's attempts to disarm the Amhara Special Force.

Avatar: Getahun Asnake
By Getahun Asnake

Getahun is Addis Zeybe's correspondent in Gondar.

Internet blackout in major Amhara region cities

"Fire was opened between the Amhara Special Force and the Ethiopian National Defense at Gobye, a city near Woldia in the Amhara Region," an Addis Zeybe source informed.

Following the Federal Government's decision to disband each Regional State's Special Forces and reunite them with the Ethiopian National Defense Force, Federal Police, and Regional Police, siege mentality and instability have intensified in the Amhara Region.

The Special Force, Amhara Fano, the militia, and the people in Amara Regional State met the reform initiative with fierce hostility.

The action causes distrust and backfires between the Amhara Special Force and the Ethiopian National Defense Force, which is the cause of the recent unrest and mass rally supporting the Amhara Special Force's disregard of the national call to disarm.

A source from Woldia told Addis Zeybe that an open fire broke out between the National Defense Force and the Amhara Special Force at Gobye, a place near Woldia, and death occurred.

Internet services have been inaccessible in Ethiopia for the past month, so people have relied on VPNs to connect and comply with their internet needs. However, besides broadband connections, internet service is now entirely restricted in major Amhara cities; Gondar, Bahir Dar, and Woldia.

The Ethiopian National Defense Force closed the road from Bahir Dar to Gonder around Woreta Town, where the Amhara Special Force is located. According to sources from the area, the road closure becomes a critical challenge for locals and travelers who use the route for business purposes between Debretabor and Bahir Dar, Gondar, and vice versa.

It was learned that a few days ago, the Government Communication Services disclosed that "a few members of the Amhara Special Force challenged the processes of the new government's restructuring agenda of resettling the special forces into the national defense force, federal police, and regional police, for two reasons: a lack of understanding of the program, and being used as an instrument for interest groups with an anti-government agenda."

The Amhara National Movement (ANM) has condemned the recent government's security force restructuring initiative, claiming that "the leading party is working to disarm and dismantle the Amhara Special Force."

According to the party's most recent assertion, the leading Prosperity Party needs to pay more attention to its pledge to stop disarming the Amhara Special Force.

"The leading prosperity party's recent Security Force restructuring agenda has faced significant resistance from Amhara Special Force members and the Amhara people," the party stated.

The party expressed its dissatisfaction with the government communication service's statement that said, "Public dialogue had been conducted with each regional special force member prior to the action," while the reality paved the way for the recent dispute between the Amhara Special Force and the National Defense Force on the ground.

An Internet shootdown occurred in Ethiopia two months ago when the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church and its followers called for a massive public rally in response to the appointment of the 26th bishop, which violates Ethiopian Orthodox Church Dogma.

While negotiations amongst Ethiopian Orthodox Church fathers were addressed through dialogue, internet service has yet to be restored.

Due to the restricted connectivity to the internet, Ethiopian citizens and business owners have been obliged to use VPNs and other internet access options, causing challenges for internet-based businesses for the last two months.

The shutdown of internet services was typical during the previous administration under the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front( EPRDF) system before the coming of Abiy Ahmed as prime minister of Ethiopia. Similarly, the developments show that the Prosperity Party has begun using the internet as an alternative to repressing the public voice by shooting down the internet.

People are concerned about the interruption of internet access in Gondar, Bahir Dar, Wollo, and other major towns in Amhara, where rallies have taken place this week.

This story is edited and repurposed by Desalegn Masrie, content editor of the outlet.