Internet was shut off for nearly three hours on Wednesday afternoon as Ethiopian soldiers took to the streets, protesting low pay and demanding a review of military operations, according to state television (ETV).
Hundreds of soldiers, who had been deployed on a mission in Burayu to quell ethnic violence, marched to the prime minister’s office and were invited in to see him.
Members of #Ethiopia|n national defense forces demonstrated in front of Prime Minister’s office in Arat Killo, #AddisAbaba. They were in uniform, but not armed. Their demand was related with salary increment & benefit. Their reps. have met & discussed the issues with the PM. pic.twitter.com/moYmlryU67— Naty Berhane Yifru (@Natberh) October 10, 2018
Update 2— Naty Berhane Yifru (Natberh) October 10, 2018
“..I asked them to drop & do some push ups..” PM Abiy Ahmed joked, when asked about demonstration of soldiers. He added he thinks young soldiers feel affinity with him, because he was an ex-soldier. He said they discussed their demands.
The soldiers reportedly reached an agreement with Abiy Ahmed, although the details are yet to be divulged.
ETV said the soldiers asked for pay rises and a ‘review of the structure and operations of the military’.
Fitsum Arega, chief of staff in Abiy’s office said the prime minister ‘listened to their grievances, reprimanded them for the wrong procedure used and promised to meet them properly in the near future’.
HE PM Abiy Ahmed listened to the grievances carefully, reprimanded them for the wrong procedure they followed to express those grievances, but concluded the meeting with a promise to meet properly in the near future to positively consider their demands. #Ethiopia pic.twitter.com/7GG9lxcxCu— Fitsum Arega (@fitsumaregaa) October 10, 2018
The state broadcaster, who did not publish images of the soldiers marching, explained that the internet had been shut off to prevent the circulation of fake news on social media.
It is not the first time the country has resorted to internet cuts for political reasons. In the past, government accused activists of abusing social media to spread inciting material that has often led to anti-government protests.
Abiy, 42, took office in April after several years of unrest forced his predecessor to resign. He has pledged to reform the security forces and promote multi-party democracy.READ MORE: Ethiopian PM replaces army chief in major shakeup
These changes are a shock to the system in Ethiopia, a country of more than 100 million people led with an iron fist since the EPRDF coalition that Abiy belongs to seized power in 1991.