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Ethiopia blocks access to social media as tensions over the church split grow

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Social media sites like TikTok, Facebook, and Telegram have been blocked due to widespread unrest brought on by a split in Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christian church.

The church has accused Ethiopia’s government of meddling in its affairs after recently labeling a splinter group in the largest region of the nation as “illegal.” Despite a government warning, it has threatened to hold a rally on Sunday.

The church split after churchgoers in Oromia announced a new synod on January 22. They claimed this was necessary because they needed to practice their faith in regional tongues, which is followed by the majority of Ethiopia’s more than 110 million people. Several church leaders who took part in the split were excommunicated by the church.

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The government will not intervene, the Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has urged churchgoers to resolve their differences. However, many churchgoers accuse the prime minister, who is Oromo by ethnicity and a Protestant, of undermining the church and supporting the breakaway synod.

The church announced on Friday that Abiy and the church patriarch were in discussions regarding the scandal that has engulfed many areas of the nation.

As of Thursday night, social media platforms were “restricted in Ethiopia amid anti-government protests,” according to the internet watchdog NetBlocks.

Several dozen cities and towns, mostly in Oromia and on the outskirts of the capital, Addis Abeba, witnessed occasionally violent rallies earlier in the week.

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At least eight people were reportedly killed by security forces in Shaashamane in the Oromia region on Saturday, according to the government-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on Friday. There were a lot of arrests, it was reported.

In a statement released on Thursday, the government accused unnamed organizations of wanting to “shake the government using armed violence.” The government has reportedly started “bringing to justice who are participating in the movement,” it was stated.

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