Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned today in a televised statement following heavy and violent protests against the government since 2015.
He resigned from both the position of prime minister and being chairman of the ruling party just a few hours after the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma resigned. The resignation was first reported by the Ethiopian state media broadcaster, Fana on Thursday, 15 February, 2018.
Hailemariam says he is giving way for reforms that lead to peace and democracy after the wide displacement and loss of lives due to social unrest and political crisis. Ethiopia has been plagued by a lot of riots and human right abuses such as the detention of major opposition leaders and declaration of a 10-month state of emergency by parliament in October, 2016.
There has been some in-fighting between the Oromos and ethnic Somali in Ethiopia killing and displacing many people. Hailemariam’s ruling party; the Ethiopia People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has its own internal divisions as other ethnicities such as the Oromo and Amhara fighting for the leading position.
So many people have lost their lives before the promise by the prime minister to release the detainees seeing more than 7,000 people later freed.
The current parliament is entirely controlled by a ruling coalition dominated by the minority from the North who make up only 6% of the population.
The Oromo, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia and the Amhara, representing the second largest group of the 100 million population have been pushing for prisoner releases who were released today following widespread demonstrations of the youthful Oromo all week blocking off roads, obstructing transport and burning tyres.
Some anticipate that Hailemariam, who comes from the South was pushed to resign because he was viewed as weak and soft for failing to control the situation on the streets and freeing the political opposition – and that they might be planning to put someone who is considered more assertive which might back fire.
Desalegn came to power in 2012 succeeding Meles Zenawi who fostered Ethiopia into economic success which has since then been declining. He was an academician turned political leader and was the head of the African Union in 2013.
Ethiopia is a very strong ally to America in the fight against terrorism and a close friend to Britain; both of whom have criticized the crashing of demonstrations to deny freedom of speech and expression in recent uprisings.
Desalegn remains the acting prime minister until the EPRDF meets on Friday to choose a new prime minister.
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