Internet Shuts Down In Ethiopia As Regional Coup Attempt Is Thwarted

Internet Shuts Down In Ethiopia As Regional Coup Attempt Is Thwarted

coup attempt
In this image made from video, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announces a failed coup as he addresses the public on television, Sunday, June 23, 2019. The failed coup in the Amhara region was led by a high-ranking military official and others within the country’s military, the prime minister told the state broadcaster. (ETV via AP)

Four people died in a failed coup attempt in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region and the country’s internet was partially shut down on Saturday.

Real-time network data showed that national connectivity dropped to 2 percent of normal levels on June 22 during the attempted coup, according to NetBlocks.

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Internet outages began in the north of the country and spread nationwide as word of the coup attempt spread.

The coup attempt began on Saturday evening in Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara, where region President Ambachew Mekonnen and Amhara regional government office advisor Ezez Wassie were shot dead, CNN reports.

While planning a response to the attack in Amhara, Army chief of staff Gen. Seare Mekonnen and retired major Gen. Gezai Abera were killed at Seare’s home in Addis Ababa by a personal bodyguard.

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The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa issued a security alert on Saturday after shots were fired in the capital and violence broke out in and around Bahir Dar.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy, who was appointed in 2018, appeared on live TV to alert the public of the failed government overthrow.

He pinned the attempted coup on Brigadier Gen. Asaminew Tsige and others in the military, according to Bloomberg.

Tsige was given amnesty and released from prison in 2018. He was working as the regional government’s head of the Peace and Security Bureau at the time of the coup.

Coup attempt leads to internet shutdown

Soon after news of the coup began to spread on Saturday evening, internet connectivity and cellular data went down, News24 reported.

NetBlocks is a civil society group interested in digital rights, cyber-security and internet governance. It monitors the IP address space of countries in real time, showing internet outages corresponding to connectivity disruptions.

Ethiopia’s internet was down for more than 24 hours with 99 percent of the country unable to access the internet, NetBlocks reported in an update.

It is unclear whether the government or those involved in the coup were responsible for the shutdown.

The timing of the connectivity loss suggests that it may have been ordered by Abiy and his government as a means to suppress the coup.