Ethiopia’s prime minister says he has submitted his resignation as both prime minister and the chairman of the ruling coalition.
Hailemariam Desalegn’s announcement comes amid a political crisis and lingering unrest in the Horn of Africa country, which has been releasing thousands of prisoners to ease tensions.
Hundreds of people have died in violence sparked, initially, by an urban development plan for the capital, Addis Ababa. The unrest spread in 2015 and 2016 as demonstrations against political restrictions and human rights abuses broke out.
“Unrest and a political crisis have led to the loss of lives and displacement of many,” Hailemariam said in a televised address to the nation on Thursday.
“… I see my resignation as vital in the bid to carry out reforms that would lead to sustainable peace and democracy,” he said.
Hailemariam has said he will stay on as prime minister in a caretaker capacity, until the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and the country’s parliament accept his resignation and name a new premier.
Ethiopia’s demonstrations demanding wider freedoms began in late 2015 and engulfed much of the restive Oromia and Amhara regions, before spreading into other parts of the country, leading to a months-long state of emergency that has since been lifted.
The government has long been accused of arresting critical journalists and opposition leaders. Rights organisations and opposition groups have called for their release, saying they were arrested on trumped-up charges and punished for their points of view.
The academic-turned-politician has led Ethiopia since 2012, after the death of former leader Meles Zenawi. He served as deputy prime minister and foreign minister under the former leader, before assuming power. He was also elected chairman of the African Union in 2013.