Ethiopia declares state of emergency amid wide protests

Casey Dawson
February 17, 2018

(OPride) - In a shocking televised statement on Thursday, Ethiopia's Hailemariam Desalegn announced stepping down as the country's Prime Minister and chairperson of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

The announcement came just after the government released hundreds of political prisoners, including some of the most prominent opposition members in the country, sparking massive celebrations in the cities and towns around the country.

In his speech, Desalegn noted that people had been displaced and injured and property damaged in the recent unrest and that he believed his resignation was necessary to carry out the democratic reforms that were underway.

"What the people are demanding is fundamental change", Merera said, describing Hailemariam's exit as a matter of internal party politics.

The government has been under pressure because of continuing street protests. But, he said, "I don't think the resignation is a sign that the hardliners have won".

"The risk of catastrophic ethnic clashes is real", said longtime independent Ethiopia researcher Rene Lefort.

Ethiopia is the region's largest economy and a key Western ally in the fight against Islamist militancy but rights groups criticise its government for jailing journalists and political opponents.

Ethiopia declares state of emergency amid wide protests

Awelu said selection of a new prime minister will in itself not be an easy task for the ruling party coalition, which comprises of four ethnicities.

Being the largest ethnicity with about 35 percent of the population, Oromo activists are particularly insistent that the next prime minister be one of their own.

Ethiopia has also been reeling from deadly protests since 2016, especially in the two most populous regional states of Amhara and Oromia, over alleged political and economic marginalization.

Desalegn, 52, took over the post soon after the death of late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in August 2012.

For better or worse Ethiopia is at a crossroads and it is high time for this generation to seize the moment and assure the continuity of the country's long history as well as our shared and sovereign culture.

"The many questions and grievances that have been raised by the public require and demand answers... as poverty is the primary cause of the many problems we now face, it must be confronted at every turn by continuing the good work we have started across the country", said the 53 year old civil-engineer turned politician.

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