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Abiy Defends internet Cutoff, says It is ‘Not Air’

ADDIS ABEBA – Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has justified the government’s right to shut down the internet, saying it is done to save lives.

He said if deadly unrest in the country continues with online incitement, the internet in the country could be cut off for a longer period.

Abiy Ahmed’s press conference on Thursday came after the assassination of the East African nation’s army chief and a regional coup attempt in recent weeks.

The prime minister has been praised for reforms that include freeing political prisoners and ending a state of emergency, but internet shutdowns amid the unrest have worried many Ethiopians. One came during national exams.

He gave a warning that if people used the internet to incite people to kill fellow citizens and destroy property, then a switch-off could be long term.

“Internet is very important… it has brought about technological convergence, and eases communication and facilitates trade when we use it properly.

“However, if we use it as a revolutionary tool to incite others to kill and burn, it will be shut down not only for a week but longer than that.”

The country is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies and has the continent’s second-largest population.

Role in June attacks

The Prime Minister also claims that attackers in a failed regional coup in June had been trained by people who had come from foreign countries, without giving details.

A rogue militia tried to seize power on June 22 in the Amhara region, an attack which authorities blamed on Asamnew Tsige, who was killed in fighting on the outskirts of Bahir Dar.

The army chief of staff was also killed in Addis Ababa simultaneously with the failed Bahir Dar assault, an attack which was also blamed on Asamnew’s militia.

“We have evidence that the suspected people were trained by people who came from abroad… There was a plan to murder other officials and generals,” Abiy told reporters.

Those trying to seize power illegally would be held accountable, he added. – Agencies