Ethiopia's Desalegn Resigns as Prime Minister

Saul Bowman
February 17, 2018

Reuters quoted Hailemariam from his televised speech as saying: "Unrest and a political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many".

The protests have been driven by the perception that the Oromo, a population of some 40 million people and the largest ethnicity in Ethiopia, are systemically excluded from political and economic power.

Its decision will determine whether one of Africa's fastest-growing economies stabilizes or descends into widespread civil unrest and bloodshed, said analysts including Hallelujah Lulie, an independent analyst in Addis Ababa, the capital.

Desalegn, who is chairman of the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has been hailed for his technocratic expertise.

"Apart from the sporadic security issues ... it is business as usual". He also stepped down from his position as its leader. But he has always been despised by hardliners within Ethiopia's ruling elite, which is composed of members of the tiny Tigrean ethnic group and their closest allies. 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.

Awelu said selection of a new prime minister will in itself not be an easy task for the ruling party coalition, which comprises of four ethnicities.

Ethiopia's Desalegn Resigns as Prime Minister

The demonstration came to an end only after the government agreed to release the political prisoners.

"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.

Ethiopia has been rocked by months of protests demanding wider freedoms that have left hundreds dead and tens of thousands detained. "I think from the party perspective, it is clear he has no power and lost control of the streets", he said.

Mulatu Gemechu, spokesman of opposition Medrek party, said: "The resignation of the prime minister is an outcome of the popular peaceful struggle in the last three years".

Ethiopia follows a parliamentary system. "In my opinion, the whole parliament had to be disbanded and a transitional phase enacted", he said. These hardliners have long wanted to oust Hailemariam in order to replace him with someone more forceful, and preferably with a member of the Tigrean ethnicity.

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