The United States government has issued a travel alert to its citizens travelling to Ethiopia following continued clashes between protesters and security forces in that country.
A statement released by the State Department on August 19 cautioned U.S. citizens over risks of traveling in certain regions of Ethiopia due to anti-government protests.
The statement said that, ‘‘associated disruptions in telephone and internet services have hampered the U.S. Embassy’s ability to communicate with U.S. citizens in Ethiopia.’‘
Internet, cellular data, and phone service have been sporadically restricted or completely cut off prior to and during some of the protests, impeding the U.S. Embassy's ability to communicate with U.S. citizens.
The State Department further disclosed that the travel alert remained valid till February 18, 2017.
They added that the protests were likely to continue, and could spread to other parts of the country, including the capital, Addis Ababa.
Background to the protests
Since November 2015 through to the early part of this year, anti-government protests, mainly in the regional state of Oromia resulted in violent clashes between demonstrators and government security forces.
Recently, people in the Amhara region have also started protests which led to clashes with security agencies. The ensuing crackdown is believed to have led to the loss of over 100 lives whiles several others have been injured.
The role of internet
Amid the largely social media instigated protests, internet, cellular data, and phone services have been sporadically restricted or completely cut off prior to and during some of the protests.
According to the State Department’s statement, the communication blackout had ‘‘impeded the U.S. Embassy’s ability to communicate with U.S. Citizens.’‘
‘‘U.S. citizens in Ethiopia should increase their level of situational awareness, continuously assess their surroundings, evaluate their personal level of safety, and avoid demonstrations and large gatherings,’‘ the statement concluded.