Facebook removes post by Ethiopian PM for ‘inciting violence’

Facebook has removed a post by Ethiopia’s prime minister for “inciting and supporting violence” as diplomats stepped up attempts to instigate a ceasefire in the country’s year-long civil war.

Abiy Ahmed, the winner of the 2019 Nobel peace prize, vowed to “bury” his government’s enemies in a Facebook post on Sunday as forces from the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) moved closer to Addis Ababa. Facebook’s owner, Meta, said on Thursday that it had removed the post.

“As the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia intensifies, we are committed to helping keep people safe and preventing online and offline harm through our platforms,” the company said. “We were made aware of a post by Ethiopia’s prime minister and removed this for violating our policies against inciting and supporting violence. At Meta we remove content from individuals or organisations that violates our community standards, no matter who they are.”

The company’s approach towards political figures has changed significantly this year since Facebook barred Donald Trump until at least January 2023. Announcing that suspension in June, Facebook said it would end a policy of keeping up posts by politicians even if they broke posting guidelines.

The Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen claimed last month that the company was “literally fanning ethnic violence” in countries including Ethiopia because it was not policing its service adequately outside the US.

On Thursday the US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman, arrived in Addis Ababa to press for a halt to military operations and a start to ceasefire talks.

The chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said he met Feltman to discuss efforts towards dialogue and political solutions to the conflict, which has pitted Ahmed’s central government against the TPLF and its allies.

The EU and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an east African bloc, joined the chorus of bodies calling for a ceasefire. Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, announced an IGAD meeting on 16 November to discuss the war.

Kenya’s president, Uhuru Kenyatta, urged the rival parties to lay down their arms and find a path to peace. “The fighting must stop,” he said in a statement.

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said he had spoken to Ahmed on Wednesday and offered to help try to create the conditions for peace talks.

Abiy’s government declared a state of emergency on Tuesday as Tigrayan forces threatened to push forward to Addis Ababa. A TPLF spokesperson said on Wednesday that its troops were in the town of Kemise, in Amhara state, about 200 miles from the capital.

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