Ethiopia’s PM Resigns From His Position To Restore National Peace

On the 15th of February of 2018, as a result of the ongoing protests in Ethiopia, the Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has announced his decision to resign from his position as the leader of the country and the chairman of the coalition party. After this pronouncement, the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition’s council decided to declare a state of emergency in the country for an indefinite period of time as a measure to maintain political order, the state broadcaster FBC reported.

Whether the PM’s resignation will be positive or not for Ethiopians is yet to be determined, as for the last years political and social unrest has persisted. According to the FBC, the now former PM Desalegn said that “he had done what he was able to do to solve the problem in the country,” referring to the political crisis in the Oromia region. Mulatu Gemechu, Deputy Secretary of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress argued that a reformation of Ethiopia’s political system is required. “Ethiopians now need a government that respects their rights, not one that keeps beating and killing them”, he said. However, Jawar Mohammed, an Oromo rights activists and head of the Oromia Media Network, considers the state of emergency an “unnecessary, unhelpful and unwise” decision, as this has been proven to fail in previous occasions, escalating the political and social issues.

Desalegn’s resignation is now considered as a historical momentum. The chances to see a maximum authority giving up his or her power are almost nil. Certainly, the unanticipated decision of Ethiopia’s PM raises questions of whether this decision was, in fact, a decision made for the well-being of the country or a political manoeuvre to not destabilize the EPRDF political party. Whether these claims are true or not, it is undeniable the possible inclusive dialogue that this decision could bring to the country. As the PM said in his speech, the resignation from his position was a necessary step “to reassure sustainable peace and democracy.”

Since 1991 the EPRDF coalition has been in power occupying 547 seats in parliament. An existent conflict between two ethnics groups, the Oromo and Amharic, has escalated since the last state of emergency in 2016. Many demonstrations against political restrictions and human rights abuses were held, resulting in hundreds of arrests and casualties. Moreover, the issues between the mentioned ethnic groups come as a result of an under-representation in the political system. Since January of this year, political prisoners and opposition figures have been released in order to cease tensions. However, it seems that these actions have not yet solved the problem.

Undoubtedly, Ethiopia’s PM’s decision demonstrates a conciliatory attitude. The many protests held since last year in order to demand government reforms have certainly pressured the current regime, and even more the EPRDF coalition. In the meantime, this unexpected event could probably restore peace, but not political stability. Considering the region’s social and political background, even a military rule could be expected. If this is to happen, PM’s resignation could be even considered as an erroneous step towards a peaceful solution in the country.  Thus, Ethiopia’s future depends now on a genuine dialogue, open space, popular participation, and a peaceful democratic transition that truly represents people’s needs.

Ingrid Valladares Gonzalez
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