February 5, 2023

Biden admin to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed: Restore telecommunications services in Tigray as Ethiopia hosts major UN Internet conference

Joe Biden and Abiy Ahmed
Joe Biden and Abiy Ahmed

The United States on Monday called on the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali to restore telecommunications services in Tigray as Ethiopia hosts a United Nations Internet conference in Addis Ababa.

“The United States calls on the Government of Ethiopia, as the host of this UN Internet Governance meeting, to expedite resumption of telecommunications services – including the Internet – in conflict-affected areas, as provided in the November 2 Cessation of Hostilities agreement,” the State Department said in a statement

The 17th annual Internet Governance Forum (IGF) will be attended by United States Ambassador at Large for Cyberspace and Digital Policy Nathaniel C. Fick who is traveling to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from November 28 to 30, 2022.

Ambassador Fick, who will speak on high-level panels addressing trust and security, as well as data governance and protecting privacy, will be joined by policy experts from the State Department’s Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, Bureau of International Organization Affairs, and Bureau of African Affairs, as well as other U.S. officials. 

“On the margins of the IGF program, Ambassador Fick and the U.S. government participants will meet with a range of officials, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders to discuss the importance of multistakeholder Internet governance, to support the work of the IGF, and to engage on key Internet-related public policy issues including the importance of protecting human rights online and digital freedom around the globe,” the State Department said.

It added that while in Addis Ababa, Ambassador Fick will meet with the U.S. Mission to the African Union (AU) and engage with other Permanent Representatives to the AU to underscore the range of cyberspace and digital policy issues of mutual importance to the United States and AU member states.

Although the peace agreement was signed almost a month ago between the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), implementation is being delayed.

In Tigray, telecommunications services have not yet returned and TPLF fighters have not also disarmed. Several other burning issues have not been resolved.

In an opinion piece, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo acknowledged that although the peace deal was not perfect, implementation should go ahead for peace to return to Ethiopia.

“Any pessimist can dig holes in the agreement, undermine it and try to prevent it from being implemented. But no agreement between two belligerents for peace will ever be regarded as perfect by all because it must, necessarily, be based on compromise,” Obasanjo wrote.

He added, “We can, however, strive for perfection in the implementation of the agreement in order to achieve the objectives of peace, security, constitutionality, stability, welfare and well-being, development, and progress of all concerned, especially the ordinary people of Ethiopia no matter where they live.

“The agreement must be implemented in good faith, on the basis of peace with honor and dignity, constitutionality and stability.  Peace deals function on building trust, and that trust has to be nurtured, layered and reinforced from inside and outside.

“All leaders of Ethiopia and all Ethiopians with their neighbors, partners and friends must join hands and accept the truth that there is ‘no victor, no vanquished’ if the possibility of peace, common security and shared prosperity, development and progress for all concerned is to be realized.

“The peace agreement and its implementation must be owned by the leaders and people of Ethiopia. The panel and the observers are mere facilitators, there to provide a guiding hand if needed.”


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