Widespread tensions arising from divisions within the Orthodox Christian Church in Ethiopia have seen access to social media platforms including TikTok, Facebook and Telegram blocked.
The church, which recently denounced a splinter group in the country’s largest region as “illegitimate,” accused the Ethiopian government of interfering in its affairs.
It threatened to continue Sunday’s demonstration despite the government’s warning.
The split within the church followed by more than 110 million people in Ethiopia came after church members in Oromia on April 22. The church communicated with many church officials involved in the split.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed urged church members to settle their differences and said the government would not interfere.
However, many church supporters accuse the ethnic Oromo and Protestant prime minister of undermining the church and siding with the breakaway synod.
On Friday, the church said talks were ongoing between Abiy and the church’s patriarch over the controversy that has engulfed many parts of the country.
Internet watchdog NetBlocks confirmed that social media platforms were “restricted in Ethiopia amid anti-government protests” on Thursday night.
Earlier in the week, dozens of cities and towns, mainly in Oromia and around the capital Addis Ababa, witnessed sometimes violent demonstrations.
The government-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said Friday that at least eight people were killed by security forces in Shahman, in the Oromia region, on Saturday. She said many people were arrested.
In a statement on Thursday, the government accused unidentified groups of working to “destabilize the government using armed force”.