(ADDIS ABABA) Ethiopian 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.
A state of emergency imposed by Ethiopia after the prime minister resigned will last six months, the defense minister said on Saturday. “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.
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.