Ethiopia declares state of emergency after PM resigns

18Feb 2018
ADDIS ABABA
Guardian On Sunday
Ethiopia declares state of emergency after PM resigns

A state of emergency imposed by Ethiopia after the prime minister resigned will last six months, the defence minister said yesterday.

A state of emergency imposed by Ethiopia after the prime minister resigned will last six months, the defence minister said yesterday.

“There are still pockets of areas where violence is prevalent. The (ruling EPRDF coalition‘s) council were unanimous in their decision,” Siraj Fegessa told journalists.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced his surprise resignation in a televised speech on Thursday, saying he wanted to smooth the way for further reforms.

Since January, Ethiopia has released more than 6,000 prisoners charged with taking part in mass protests and, in some cases, offences against the state. It has also closed down a jail where activists alleged torture took place.

Many of the prisoners took part in anti-government protests in 2015 and 2016 in Amhara and Oromiya, the country’s two most populous provinces. The demonstrations began against a government plan to expand the capital Addis Ababa but morphed into greater demands for civil rights.

The government previously imposed a state of emergency in October 2016, which was lifted in August 2017. During that time, curfews were in place, there were restrictions on movement and around 29,000 people were detained.

Ethiopia is East Africa’s biggest and fastest-growing economy and a Western ally in the fight against Islamist militancy.

Ethiopia’s state of emergency imposed on Friday includes a ban on protests and publications that incite violence, Fegessa said.

Desalegn said he was leaving to give the EPRDF space as it pursued political reforms.

"I myself want to become part of the solution," he said in announcing his resignation Thursday.

Last month, Desalegn announced Ethiopia would release some jailed "politicians" in order to "improve the national consensus and widen the democratic platform".

In the weeks since, hundreds of prisoners were pardoned or released from custody, including some of the country's most prominent dissidents.

Nonetheless, Oromo activists called a strike earlier this week that saw businesses shutter and young men armed with rocks and sticks block roads in Oromia to push the government to keep its prisoner amnesty promise.

The strike was called off after detained Oromo politicians were freed along with hundreds of other prisoners including journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage. The next day, Hailemariam announced his resignation.

He will remain in office until parliament and the EPRDF coalition confirm his resignation. It remains unclear who will then take over.

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