Ethiopia: Prime Minister Desalegn steps down

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has finally stepped down from power and also resigned from the post of chairman of the ruling coalition after a long period of mass unrest since 2015. The violence which took lives of scores of people spread in 2015 primarily triggered by an urban development plan for the city of Addis Ababa. The whole series of events took an ugly turn when there were demonstrations against many political restrictions and violations of human rights.

Hailemariam addressed the nation via television and stated, “unrest and political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many” and that “ I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy.”

Hailemariam however also clarified that he will continue to be a caretaker PM under the aegis of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) till the Parliament of the nation is able to name a new premier after acceptance of his resignation.

Ethiopian protests- a flashback

The protests in Ethiopia primarily started in August 2016 after the calls from the opposition groups as against a demand of human rights abuses by the administration like killing of civilians, mass arrests, land seizures etc. As a crackdown government responded by a restriction on internet and also more arrests of the demonstrators.

Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic state and has been ruled by EPRDF which is steered by Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front after the capture of the capital and thus brought an end to the Ethiopian Civil War in 1991. Tigrayans although in minority dominate the senior-most positions in the military and politics and the majority ethnic groups of Amhara and Oromo have always remained marginalized.

It was the death of Meles Zenawi- the power horse of Ethiopia there was a complete change of the whole scene. The topmost positions of President and Prime Minister were no more occupied by the Tigrayans. The country experienced massive economic growth and prosperity since the turn of the new millennium but the fruits of the same could not reach the masses as the civil rights and other freedoms were often denied to the farmers and pastoralists.

The weather also took sharp turns and deprived the country of rainfall due to a strong El Nino effect. As a result, the nation saw a terrible drought with drying up of pastures and crops. The Amhara and Oromia regions were worst hit. It was in 2016 torrential rains occurred to worsen the conditions and led to mass displacements.

The unrest though did not have an immediate trigger but was a result of piled up frustrations and anger against the governmental policies and a plan to expand the boundaries of Addis Ababa in the Oromia region. Although the plan was dropped by the government, yet the demonstrations did not abate. They were due to the demand of the Welkait Amhara Identity Committee that the land which belongs to them traditionally and is administered by the Tigrayans be returned to them.

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