Hopes for political inclusion recede after Ethiopia announces emergency

Ethiopia’s declaration of a six-month state of emergency on Friday (Feb 16) following Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn’s (pictured) shock resignation points to growing tensions in the four-party ruling coalition despite being in power for 27 years and controlling all 547 seats in parliament.

The bickering started following the recent unrest by Oromos, the largest ethnic group in Oromia region who, along with Amharic of neighboring Amhara region, are seeking political space to make their voices heard.

Earlier, similar unrest by Oromos had led to protests triggering a 10-month state of emergency from October 2016.

This week, they protested again with a two-day shutdown of the region asking Hailemariam to keep his promise and free people jailed during the previous emergency.

They called off the protest only after all Oromo political prisoners were freed.

The next day, Hailemariam stepped down. His explanation for quitting — that he wants to leave his coalition more room for reforms and that he wants to become part of the solution — does not seem  convincing. What possibly made him quit may be his failure to forge unity among the four coalition partners. The coalition has not accepted his resignation yet.

The council of ministers has defended the emergency saying it will end ethnic-based clashes, chaos and unruliness and protect the constitutional system.

The US Embassy in Ethiopia on Saturday opposed the imposition of a state of emergency since it restricts one’s fundamental rights such as assembly and expression, stands against political inclusion of ethnic groups and stifles people’s voice.