Ethiopian PM Desalegn quits after mass anti-govt protests

Ethiopia begins six-month state of emergency
Ethiopian PM Desalegn quits after mass anti-govt protests

17 February, 2018

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced his resignation Thursday in an effort to quell the country's political unrest. He also resigned as chairman of the ruling coalition, which has governed since it defeated a military regime in 1991.

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.

Ethiopia last declared a state of emergency in October 2016 after months of protests in Oromia - home to the country's largest ethnicity, the Oromos - and neighbouring Amhara region.

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

Desalegn resignation has since been accepted by the Executive Committees of both the Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM) - of which he was Chair and the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). They have also succeeded beyond anyone's expectation: not since the end of the apartheid period in South Africa has any autocratic regime voluntarily agreed to release thousands of political opponents and to open civic space.

There is pressure for a member of the Oromo ethnic group to get the post, said a source close to a ruling party member. Also on Friday, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, met and discussed current political issues with Ethiopia's Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu in NY. But to the man who for the past 6 years has presided over what is widely reported as Africa's fastest growing economy, says his departure is for the good of his country, and he believes something greater will come out of it.

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A 10-month state of emergency that ended previous year failed to stop the protests, as did the release from jail of thousands of opposition supporters.

But, he has struggled to rise politically above the shadow of Meles who was the nation's prime minister from 1995 to 2012. "I think from the party perspective, it is clear he has no power and lost control of the streets", he said.

The Oromo Federalist Congress is one of seven parties that make up the biggest opposition coalition, MEDREK.

"This (resignation) is not something to cheer about".

"Whoever replaces him (Hailemariam) has to have in mind a transition".

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