Ethiopia’s prime minister resigns amid political turmoil
Former Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn submitted his resignation in a televised announcement on Thursday amid political turmoil in one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.
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.
A staunch U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism and the second-most populous country in Africa, Ethiopia is a regional powerhouse with grand economic ambitions. But for the past few years it has seethed with social unrest that has killed hundreds, and thousands have been imprisoned, including top opposition figures.
Desalegn’s resignation also comes just hours after another African powerhouse, South Africa, saw its president resign also amid political turmoil
According to the state Ethiopian News Agency, Desalegn resigned both as prime minister and chair of the ruling party “to be part of the efforts to provide a lasting solution to the current situation.” He added he would stay on until a successor was chosen.
In his speech, Desalegn noted that people had been displaced and injured and property damaged in the recent unrest and that he believed his resignation was necessary to carry out the democratic reforms that were underway.
Earlier in the week, there were widespread demonstrations by the Oromo — the country’s largest ethnic group, representing more than a third of Ethiopia’s 100 million people — over the perceived slow pace of prisoner releases promised in January.
Young men blocked roads leading out of the capital with rocks and burned tires, disrupting public transportation networks. Businesses throughout the vast Oromo region were shuttered as part of a strike.
The strike was lifted on Wednesday with the prisoner releases. Opposition figures in Ethiopia’s extensive diaspora claimed the government had capitulated in the face of popular pressure