Ethiopia declares national state of emergency

17 February 2018, 12:11 | Isaac Mcdaniel

Analysts say mass protests in Ethiopia's Oromia region pushed Hailemariam to resign

Analysts say mass protests in Ethiopia's Oromia region pushed Hailemariam to resign

Ethiopia's ruling coalition has accepted the resignation of Hailemariam Desalegn as Prime Minister of the country.

The prime minister's resignation came at the end of a three-day strike in Oromia, the largest and most populous region in the country.

This week Ethiopia has been rocked by crippling protests in towns across the restive Oromia region in which demonstrators called for the release of political prisoners and urged the government to carry out quick reforms.

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

"The political landscape is shifting quickly and they have to accommodate the people's demands if they want to continue to govern", said Ahmed Soliman, an Africa research associate at London think tank Chatham House.

The government has been under pressure because of continuing street protests.

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

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Hailemariam Desalegn, previously a low-profile politician and technocrat, succeeded the former Marxist rebel Meles Zenawi, under whom he had served as deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

There are many pitfalls ahead, but the next few days will determine whether the Ethiopian nation will proceed down the path of peace and dialogue, or blunder haplessly into widespread civic unrest and bloodshed.

But despite all the economic development leaps, Ethiopia has lagged behind in terms the political freedoms and democracy. "If the ruling party chooses to replace Hailemariam, as feared, with a hardliner representative of the Tigrayan elite, or - worse - if it reinstitutes martial law by calling another state of emergency, the situation could easily explode".

Both the EPRDF and Desalegn's party, the Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement, agreed to accept his resignation and he said he hopes Parliament will do the same.

Political analyst Hallelujah Lulie said the seeds of Hailemariam's departure were sown in 2015, when anti-government protests erupted that led to hundreds of deaths and prompted the government to impose a 10-month state of emergency in October 2016.

New industrial parks, train tracks and roads have sprung up across the country in recent years, but the protesters complain jobs remain scarce.

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