Blocking Media Outlets and Telephone Services as a Tool to Hide the “Genocidal Action” in Oromia
By Worku Burayu (PhD), January 8, 2020
Ethiopia is one of the several African countries that have blocked the internet or specific social media sites during elections, periods of crisis, and national exams. Ethiopia had shut down the internet nine times in 2019, as frequent internet blackouts and telephone blocking are well-documented across the country. In the beginning of the 2020 new year, The Ethiopian government has instigated intensive military operation in Western Oromia, Guji and Borana Zones of Southern Oromia with intention to destroy the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA). During the operation OLA killed “Brigadier General Gebre-Tsadik Gebre-Mikael, The Western Oromia Emergency Command Post overall commander and dozens of army personnel,” OLA’s spoke person told to Voice of Independent Oromia (VIO). Prime minster Abiy Ahmed complained that internet and social medias have become common place to disclose the deadly attacks claimed by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) that prompt Abiy’s administration to block all media outlets, networks, electric light and other services in that area. Since Abiy came to power the Western and Southern Oromia have been ruled under a state of emergency’s Command Post. In principle, a state of emergency is a situation in which a government is empowered to perform actions or impose policies for very specific but short period of time that it would normally not be permitted to undertake. Ethiopia’s state of emergency’s Command Post isn’t an emergence; it is a norm or routine activities that terrorize citizens of the country. Since the operation began about two years ago, tens of thousands of people in these areas have died, imprisoned and unknown numbers have fled or misplaced.
Ethiopia intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information in any media outlets in violation of international human rights law. The Shutdowns of internet, telephone and others already have affected the society and allowed human rights crackdowns to happen in the dark. These blockings of media outlets are in violation of the right to freedom of opinion and access to information that will jeopardize the coming election in Ethiopia. Men and women who are escaping the genocidal actions that has been happening in Western Oromia indicated that Ethiopian army burns and loots its way across each Oromo villages while aircrafts have soared close to the ground and terrorizing the area. Military carried out indiscriminate killings, gang rapes, burning villages with “genocidal intent”. Many killed in the actions, houses and properties destroyed, children and elders who couldn’t escape harassed alive. Other inhabitants have been forced to leave from their homes, majority of these in the last few weeks alone but survivors seek refuge in nowhere. The where about of many are unknown. As the country’s ruler, Abiy Ahmed could have urged a halt to these genocidal actions by the command post, but instead he has intensified the army’s actions to wipe out Mecca and Guji Oromo’s. He blocked all information outlets including telephone and internet services to hide these genocidal actions. Abiy administration has miscalculating to abort the upcoming election and Abiy himself has trying to make justification to exclude about half of the population of Oromia from election. Surprisingly, there is no national or international coverage to disclose these genocidal actions and the well-planned coordinated destruction on unarmed civilians. National and international media out lets, prominent activists, politician and all political parties in Ethiopia must been blamed for failing to speak out against the army crackdown in Western and Southern Oromia.
So far, The United Nations Human Rights Council is taking no measure or say nothing against recent internet blackouts and telephone blocking in Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s State behavior has not changed. It blocks access to the internet and telephone as a means to suppress flow of information and hide the heinous crime it’s perpetuating. It is a vicious circle for Ethiopia, not to behave and ruled by the laws and policies that are consistent with human rights obligations. From the Human Rights Council’s moral standpoint, it is a crucial step to strongly urge the government of Ethiopia (1) to stop shutting down internet, (2) condemn the use of internet shutdown as a tool to prevent dissemination of information, (3) and to refrain from and cease such measures. What is currently happening with the government of Ethiopia deserve due attention and UN HR should raise concerns with Ethiopian gov’t. The silence by The UN Human Rights Council, international community or human right activists will lead, to widespread killings, destroying of properties, and to the rising authoritarianism and tyrannical regime making. Abiy’s administration and the high-ranking officials should be prosecuted for the gravest crimes under international law. I ask The Human Rights Council to appoint a special observer to evaluate issues around the Western and Southern Oromia.