Ethiopia restores internet access following coup attempt

Africa

ADDIS ABABA - Internet access is being restored across Ethiopia as of 6:00 a.m. UTC Thursday 27 June according to network measurement data. Overall connectivity is rising to levels observed prior to the total disruption, although reports confirm that mobile internet access remains limited.

Ethiopia had been cut off from the internet for over 100 hours following a blackout which started Saturday evening amid reports of an attempted plot to unseat the Amhara Regional State Government.

On Saturday following the incident in Amhara, instances of gunfire were reported by the U.S. Embassy and other sources in Addis Ababa. Concerns grew over the possibility of wider conflict although the alleged attackers were reported killed by Monday afternoon as a day of national mourning was declared, with the situation appearing to stabilize.

Shortly after the attack on Saturday, the Prime Minister’s secretariat appeared live on Ethiopian Television to explain, “armed men tried to unseat the Amhara Regional State Government by force but their attempt has been foiled.” It later emerged that prominent government figures had been shot dead.

Is access fully restored?

Access levels are approaching, but still below, ordinary levels recorded prior to the onset of the total shutdown on Saturday with mobile data networks still offline. NetBlocks web probe tests confirm that social media and messaging apps are not blocked.

On 10 June, Ethiopia’s two most popular communications apps Telegram and WhatsApp were blocked without explanation but are now available to those with internet access.

What regions of Ethiopia were offline?

Network connectivity levels generally correlate to internet availability in a given country. Between 2% and 9% of Ethiopia’s networks remained reachable during the shutdown, with those connections serving critical infrastructure and appearing to provide access for technical staff and government officials.

Some of the same internet addresses were also kept online during the earlier series of disruptions in June, which had reportedly been implemented as a measure to prevent cheating in national exams.

How did the shutdown progress?

Data indicate that the outage rapidly progressed to have a nationwide impact, following a brief partial disruption affecting parts of the north, including Amhara State, and some eastern regions. By the time word of the coup attempt began to spread, some 98% of Ethiopia was already offline.

Who is responsible for Ethiopia’s internet outage?

It remains unclear which party ordered the internet shutdown in the first place, and also unclear why Ethiopia remained offline for five days. More details are likely to emerge now that residents are able to communicate with the outside world.

In recent weeks Ethiopia has experienced a series of nationwide blackouts causing significant social and economic harm, stoking dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The latest information blackout comes exactly one year after his government declared freedom of expression a “foundational right” and proposed a series of pro-democracy reforms which now face unprecedented challenges.

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