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Ethiopians facing uncertainty as martial
law follows Prime Minister's resignation       

By Habtamu Liben and Elias Gebreselassie ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Ethiopia’s political and security situations have once again hung in balance as the East African nation on Friday declared the second state of emergency in two years.

Ethiopia on Friday announced the state of emergency, which is said to protect the constitution, citizens and their property from the ongoing violent protests in some parts of the country.

Costantinos Bt. Costantinos, Professor of Public Policy at Addis Ababa University, told Xinhua that the state of emergency declaration for a second time in a short period of time is a result of the momentous youth protest, which “has the potential to escalate to a wider conflict.”

“The mass campaign has celebrated the release of opposition figures, protest bloggers and journalists from incarceration,” Costantinos said, adding that “It is unprecedented in this nation’s recent history, where protests have managed to persuade a formidable regime to capitulate to its demands.”

The expert said the mass protests, which started as a protest against the planned expansion of the capital Addis Abeba before evolving into a nationwide disagreement on the ruling coalition’s leadership, has “finally caused the resignation of the Prime Minister, the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, and the proclamation of a state of emergency.”

The current state of emergency was announced as the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is expected to nominate its chairman and the future prime minister of the country, as the current prime minister is expected to step down anytime soon following his resignation.

Announcing his resignation as both prime minister of Ethiopia and chairman of the ruling EPRDF coalition, Hailemariam Desalegn described his resignation as an effort to advance reforms aimed at easing the country’s political unrest.

Desalegn, speaking on state television on Thursday, said he is stepping down “to be part of the solution and for the success of the reforms and the solutions we have put in place.”

Shiferaw Shigute, head of EPRDF office, who praised the prime minister for his contribution to the ruling party and the country, also announced the acceptance of Desalegn’s resignation offer by both the ruling EPRDF and his party, the Southern Ethiopian People’s Democratic Movement, which make up the ruling EPRDF together with three other parties.

According to Costantinos, the Ethiopian government needs to widen the political landscape to tackle the negative consequences that start to unfold from the ongoing political uncertainty.

Ethiopia’s three most populous regional states Oromia, Amhara and Southern have been scenes of continual protest since 2016 over alleged economic and political marginalization.

Even though Ethiopians have witnessed an average double-digit economic growth during the past decade, complaints about maladministration and corruption have led to violence and anti-government demonstrations.

The protests had prompted the government to put the nation under a state of emergency for much of 2016 and 2017.

In recent months, internal political wrangling between four coalition partners of EPRDF, Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF), Amhara National Democratic Movement (ANDM), South Ethiopia People’s Democratic Movement and Oromo Peoples Democratic Organization (OPDO) has cast fears over the stability of the nation of about 100 million people.

In response to the public’s anger, the Ethiopian government has applied measures including the arrest of senior officials in its anti-corruption move and large-size government reshuffle.

During the crackdown, 56 senior government officials, businessperson and middlemen were arrested in less than one month period.

The Ethiopian government is also pardoning thousands of imprisoned opposition figures and other related individuals in an attempt towards national unity and reconciliation.

The government is expected to announce specific details of the state of emergency period as well as its duration.

Speaking to Xinhua, Abebe Aynete, senior researcher at the Ethiopia Foreign Relations Strategic Studies (EFRSS), a local think thank, said the resignation of Desalegn followed by the martial law should give the Ethiopian government a breathing space to control unrest and institute reform.

He recommends that timely actions by the ruling party, including nominating the next prime minister, are needed to resolve the crisis.

Mulatu Gemechu, deputy secretary of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), agreed that the release of politicians and activists in recent months is a positive step and urged more reforms to meet the public demands.

Gemechu however was dismissive of the re-institution of martial law, which he said would only lead to more conflict and bloodshed.



Ethiopian national security council urges respect of new martial law

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Ethiopian National Security Council (ENSC) on Saturday urged citizens to respect the state of emergency that came into effect on Friday.

Ethiopian Council of Ministers on Friday imposed a state of emergency, saying it was to protect the country’s constitution, citizens and their property from the ongoing violent demonstrations in some parts of the country.

Siraj Fegessa, Ethiopia’s defense minister, told local media on Saturday that the state of emergency, due effective for six months, will bring together the country’s security forces to ensure “the country’s law and order is effectively maintained.”

The minister further warned “internal and external forces to refrain from deconstructive attempts that would jeopardize the current socioeconomic gains of the country.”

The Africa’s second most populous nation had witnessed a ten-month state of emergency since October 2016, following the Ethiopian parliament’s decision to extend the initial six-month period by four months.

According to Fegessa, the ten-month state of emergency was effective in calming the violent demonstrations that rocked the East African country for much of 2016 and 2017.

Fegessa also revealed that the state of emergency would further extend its duration if the expected outcomes are not achieved.

The previously imposed state of emergency, during its initial days, had imposed restrictions including curfew, social media blocks, and a ban on diplomats traveling more than 40 km outside the capital Addis Ababa without approval.


U.S. urges Ethiopia to “rethink” martial law

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The U.S. embassy in Ethiopia on Saturday urged Addis Ababa to reconsider its decision to institute martial law.

In a statement posted on its website, the U.S. embassy said the decision to impose martial law in Ethiopia on Friday reverses positive steps taken to create a more inclusive political space, including the release of thousands of prisoners.

“We strongly disagree with the Ethiopian government’s decision to impose a state of emergency that includes restrictions on fundamental rights such as assembly and expression,” the statement said.

Ethiopian National Security Council (ENSC) on Saturday urged citizens to respect the state of emergency that came into effect on Friday.

The Council of Ministers imposed the state of emergency on Friday, saying it was to protect the country’s constitution, citizens and their property from the ongoing violent demonstrations in some parts of the country.

The U.S. embassy statement said that “the challenges facing Ethiopia, whether to democratic reform, economic growth, or lasting stability, are best addressed through inclusive discourse and political processes, rather than through the imposition of restrictions.”

“We strongly urge the government to rethink this approach and identify other means to protect lives and property while preserving, and indeed expanding, the space for meaningful dialogue and political participation that can pave the way to a lasting democracy,” the statement said.

Ethiopia has been facing incessant protests since 2016, especially in three most populous Oromia, Amhara and Southern regional states.

The unrest has raised concern over the stability of Ethiopia, east Africa’s largest economy.


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