Ethiopia Faces Watershed Moment After Prime Minister Resigns

Ethiopia begins six-month state of emergency

Ethiopia begins six-month state of emergency

After overseeing the release on February 13 and 14 of thousands of political challengers to the regime, Ethiopian prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn has resigned amid continuing protests that potentially threaten the survival of the government.

The announcement came just after the government released hundreds of political prisoners, including some of the most prominent opposition members in the country, sparking massive celebrations in the cities and towns around the country.

"The main reason I have submitted my resignation is because I hold the firm belief that it was necessary for me to tender it as part of a solution aimed at ensuring lasting peace and guaranteeing democracy in our country going forward". The country has released a number of political prisoners following the promise of political reforms in January. Opposition to an urban development plan for the capital Addis Ababa sparked public demonstrations against political restrictions, land grabbing and human rights abuses.

"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.

But anti-government sentiment remained in the two regions and protests continued to erupt sporadically.

Ethiopia's restive Oromia and Amhara regions have been engulfed by violent protests in recent years, forcing the government at one point to declare a state of emergency that has since been lifted.

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Whoever takes over will face a daunting task of keeping the EPRDF together and continuing the country's streak of rapid economic growth.

Ethiopia is a key USA ally in its battle against al-Qaeda in the Horn of Africa.

Desalegn has served as prime minister since 2012.

While the decree halted the unrest, protests still erupted occasionally and the upheaval exposed divisions within the four ethnically based parties that under the EPRDF umbrella have ruled Ethiopia since 1991. His (the prime minister's) resignation will not mean anything unless our rights are respected. The coalition has controlled every seat in Ethiopia's 547-strong parliament since 2015, when Seifu lost his post.

Desalegn resignation has since been accepted by the Executive Committees of both the Southern Ethiopian People's Democratic Movement (SEPDM) - of which he was Chair and the ruling Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

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