PM Hailemariam Desalegn who served as Prime Minister for over five years unexpectedly announced his resignation to be ‘part of the solution’ for the current crisis in the country.
Over the last few years political instability has occurred in two major regions. The government declared a state of emergency in October 2016 that lasted ten months. The situation appeared to be calm for a while. However protests and violence continued to rock the country.
The major problem since the beginning of the Ethiopian New Year has been the conflict between the Ethiopia Somali Special Forces along the border area of the Oromia region, the biggest ethnic group in the country followed by revolts in some parts of Oromia. There have also been smaller protests in other parts of the country.
The outgoing PM submitted his resignation to the Southern Ethiopia Peoples’ Democratic Movement (SEPDM), a party that included different ethnic groups in the southern region, on Wednesday February 15. In his announcement on Thursday afternoon Hailemariam said that his resignation has been accepted by the executive committees of his party and the coalition front EPRDF.
“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,” he said during his seven minute statement. He added that he was resigning because the many questions and grievances that have been raised by the public require and demand answers.
“Going forward, once the peaceful transition of power receives a final endorsement by the House of Peoples Representatives, I will provide a further statement on that occasion,” he said.
Recently the four party leaders of EPRDF talked about reforms that included releasing political prisoners. At the same time the protests occurred in the Oromia region that forced the government to release more political prisoners, including Merera Gudina (PhD) and some other opposition political figures a few weeks ago.
“On my part, in an effort to fulfill my responsibilities as a party to these reforms, I have officially tendered, of my own volition, my resignation from the leadership of both the EPRDF and the government,” the outgoing PM said.
Hailemariam’s resignation occurs immediately after the protests and instability in Oromia followed by the release of another group of Oromo opposition members and journalists and other opposition figures.
The resignation of the PM is expected to be ratified by the parliament. He said he would continue in his role until he is replaced.
“The situation of our country currently is a cause for concern but in order to alleviate these concerns, I call on the public-at-large to maintain the togetherness of our society as has been practiced across generations and to continue to play their part in the development of our country,” Hailemariam said to the public during his speech.
A day after the PM announced his resignation, the Council of Ministers held a meeting that took them over six hours to discuss the implementation of the state of emergency. Journalists filled the PM’s office to attend a press briefing scheduled for that afternoon but the meeting went on into the evening hours and the press briefing was canceled. That night several reports circulated online and on local media indicating that some prominent opposition figures from Amhara were freed from prison.