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Stopping Repression, Restoring Telecom & Internet Services in Oromia to Fight the Threat of COVID-19 Pandemic in Ethiopia

By Makonnen Tesfaye
Tigrai Online March 21, 2020

Oromos in Ethiopia fighting against Abiy Ahmed government

1. Repression and Exposing People in Oromia to COVID-19 Pandemic is Genocidal, Stupid !

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1.1 What is incontestable reality in the present political-economy and social life of Ethiopia is that telecom services, in particular the use of Mobile Cellular, are vital for the livelihood of tens of millions of Ethiopians, both in urban and rural areas. The use of Mobile Cellular for existential and common livelihood activities (e.g. market information, remittances, health, agricultural, educational and social information)   amongst the broad masses in the country is fast becoming the rule nowadays rather than the exception. For example, according to the World Bank Development Indicators the number of Mobile Cellular Subscriptions in Ethiopia stood at 51.5 million in 2018. This is against 6.8 million in 2010. Similarly, Mobile Cellular Subscription per 100 people was 49.4 % in 2016, though declining to 36.2% in 2018. This means at least 1-2 persons in all households having Mobiles, effectively giving access to Mobile services to all households in Ethiopia. Internet users per 100 people in Ethiopia stood at 34.8% in 2015 as against less than 1% in 2010 according to the World Bank and Trading Economics. Similarly, over 5 million people had Facebook accounts in 2019.  Regarding households with television sets, the World Bank data is for 2005 and stood at 4.9%. Suffice to say there will be much more households with mobiles rather than television sets, given the vast price differentials and the average income of the Ethiopian household, in particular in the rural areas.

1.2 When the dissemination of common but pertinent health information through all mediums is a critical factor in combating the spread of the Corona Virus Pandemic, the deliberate and politically motivated blockage of telecommunication and Internet services by the Ethiopian Government in Western and Southern Oromia is tantamount to genocidal condemnation of millions of the Oromo people, which is a crime against humanity and therefore must be referred to the International Court of Justice and the World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as the UN and the AU. All Ethiopians must be very concerned and make their voices clearly heard not only on humanitarian and democratic right reasons, but also because of consequential health implications for the Country. This is because the potentially uneven spread of the Corona Virus in Western and Southern Oromia cannot be confined to the Region alone but will inevitably even out to the rest of Ethiopia. The importance of inclusive community engagement and the use of effective communication in combating the Pandemic is emphasised by the WHO:

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“Addressing COVID-19 is an all-of-government, all of society responsibility: This was our call to action for every country to take its boldest action to fight this new virus. That action must be an all-of-society, all of government action. Effective resilience and response will take a joint effort to a shared threat. I ask your governments to coordinate and integrate the response across all sectors, including regular and timely communication with all sectors and elements of the community”. (Statement to Diplomatic Missions located in Denmark on COVID-19 by Dr Hans Henri P. Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe; Copenhagen, 19 March 2020 - Emphasis by Author)

Sadly and tragically, the incidence of the Corona Virus Pandemic clearly demonstrates yet again not only the incompetence of the Government but also the cruelty and inhumanity of the current Regime. This must be condemned in no uncertain terms, and people must demand the immediate restoration of all telecom services and the Internet in all the Regions of the Country.

1.3 Colonel Abiy must also stop coercing people to attend mass meetings (e.g. current and on-going forced mass meetings in the Amhara Region) for the purpose of propagating his Prosperity political gospel as these mass gatherings fundamentally undermine the fight against the spread of the Corona Virus Pandemic in the Region.

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Abstract

2. Colonel Abiy’s Repression in Oromia Repeating Colonel Mengistu’s Genocidal Condemnation of Tigrayans

2.1 This is Deja-vu, akin to the 1984-85 Famine in Ethiopia when the Derg Fascist Military Dictatorship deliberately stopped the flow of aid to Tigray where millions of Tigrayans were exposed to starvation, where hundreds of thousands died and millions migrated to Sudan in search of aid as the result of the Dreg's deliberate action, which aimed “to starve Tigray in order to undermine the TPLF”.  Sadly and tragically,   history is repeating itself.  The motive now is “to disease and repress Oromia in order to undermine the OLF”.  Indeed, Colonel Abiy is proving as cruel and as inhumane as Colonel Mengistu was.

3. Demand for Restoration of Telecom and Internet Services, and Against Regime Repression

3.1 It is imperative to demand and fight for the restoration of telecom and Internet services in the fight against COVID-19  Pandemic through peaceful and legal mass actions  by citizens  and by appealing to concerned international institutions, including the WHO, the UN and the AU.

3.2 The state-led information warfare on the population; the repressive political atmosphere in the Country; the economic warfare against regional states (e.g. Tigray); and the Military Command posts (e.g. Southern and Western Oromia), have further compounded peoples’ ability to cope with the menace of the deadly Corona Virus Pandemic, and cannot, therefore, be seen separately from the fight against the spread of the threat of CORVID-19. Similarly, the forced mass meetings in the Amhara Region must stop as these campaigns fundamentally undermine the fight against the spread of the threat of COVID-19 in the Region.  It is therefore imperative that we unit in the fight against these twin man-made and natural calamities facing the Country as a matter of utmost urgency.