Anti-Foreigner Sentiment Rising in Ethiopia Due to COVID-19: US Embassy

By Staff Reporter

Addis-Ababa-US-EmbassyMarch 18, 2020 ( -- The US Embassy in Addis Ababa said it continues to receive reports regarding a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment revolving around the announcement of COVID-19 in Ethiopia.

In a statement it issued on Wednesday, the embassy said typical derogatory comments directed at foreigners, the terms “China” and “Ferengi” (foreigner), have been reportedly coupled with the label “Corona,” indicating a disparaging view on the link between the outbreak of COVID-19 and foreigners in Ethiopia.

Incidents of harassment and assault directly related to COVID-19 have been reported by other foreigners living within Addis Ababa and other cities throughout the country, the embassy said   

Reports indicate that foreigners have been attacked with stones, denied transportation services (taxis, Ride, etc.), being spat on, chased on foot, and been accused of being infected with COVID-19, the US statement added.

The embassy advised US citizens to avoid walking/hiking/biking alone and refrain from walking throughout the city or residential areas, especially after dark.

The embassy saif if yelled at or spat upon, do not engage or otherwise escalate the encounter.  “Do your best to immediately leave the situation/area,” the statement added.

According to the embassy, US citizens need to maintain situational awareness and avoid wearing headphones or using handheld electronic devices in public areas.

The embassy further advised US nationals to go the closest major establishment, hotel or police station if they think they are being followed.

Meanwhile, the Oromia Health Professionals Association has requested the government of Ethiopia to lift the shutdown of internet and phone communications in Oromia region so that people in the region would get information about the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

In a letter addressed to the office of the Prime Minister, the association said people in the region are denied access to telephone and internet services, affecting their knowledge o prevent and contain the pandemic.

President of the Association Dr. Jelcha Diriba said the people in the region are not getting updates and valuable information about the spreading coronavirus due to the suspension of both internet and telephone services.

Telephone and internet services have been suspended in four Wellega zones and west Shoa of Oromia regional state since last January.

In response to similar requests last Monday, the CEO of Ethio Telecom Ferehiwot Tamiru said “nothing changed” towards the government’s decision to suspend communication service in the region.

Last week, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Ethiopian government should immediately lift the shutdown of internet and phone communications in Ethiopia’s Oromia region.

HRW said the two-month-long shutdown telephone and internet services has prevented families from communicating, disrupted life-saving services, and contributed to an information blackout during government counter-insurgency operations in the area.

Deputy chief of staff of the Ethiopian defense forces Lt. General Berhanu Jula in a recent interview said the telephone and internet cut was to weaken insurgents in the Oromia region.

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