Ethiopia said Saturday that a state of emergency will remain in place for six months, as the authorities move to quell “chaos and unruliness”.
The council of ministers declared the country’s second emergency decree in two years on Friday evening.
It capped a tumultuous week that saw Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resign, a strike in the country’s largest region and a massive prisoner amnesty.
“The state of emergency will be for six months and will be approved by parliament,” state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) wrote on Facebook, quoting Defence Minister Siraj Fegessa.
The government had cited “ethnic-based clashes” and “chaos and unruliness” as the reasons for the declaration.
“To be able to protect the constitutional system, declaring a state of emergency has become necessary”, EBC said, quoting a government communique.
While the decree is already in effect, parliamentary approval for the requested six-month period appears likely as the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and its allies control all the seats in the House of Peoples’ Representatives.
Ethiopia last declared a state of emergency in October 2016 after months of protests in Oromia — home to the country’s largest ethnicity, the Oromos — and neighbouring Amhara region.
The 10-month decree succeeded in quelling the unrest, which killed hundreds and resulted in tens of thousands of arrests, despite criticism from rights groups.
But anti-government sentiment remained in the two regions and the analysts believe Hailemariam’s response to the protests eventually led to his surprise resignation, a first in modern Ethiopia.
The prime minister said he was leaving to give the EPRDF space as it pursued political reforms.
“I myself want to become part of the solution,” he said in announcing his resignation Thursday.
Last month, Hailemariam announced Ethiopia would release some jailed “politicians” in order to “improve the national consensus and widen the democratic platform”.
In the weeks since, hundreds of prisoners were pardoned or released from custody, including some of the country’s most prominent dissidents.
Nonetheless, Oromo activists called a strike earlier this week that saw businesses shutter and young men armed with rocks and sticks block roads in Oromia to push the government to keep its prisoner amnesty promise.
The strike was called off after detained Oromo politicians were freed along with hundreds of other prisoners including journalist Eskinder Nega and opposition leader Andualem Arage.
The next day, Hailemariam announced his resignation.
He will remain in office until parliament and the EPRDF coalition confirm his resignation. It remains unclear who will then take over.